Vessels with a ballast water capacity less than 1,500 m3 or greater than 5,000 m3 must comply with the US Coast Guard’s regulation on BWM by first scheduled drydocking after 1 January 2016.The US Coast Guard Final Rule on Standards for Living Organisms in Ships’ Ballast Water Discharged in US Waters came into effect on 1 June 2012 and is located under regulation 33 CFR Part 151. The regulation requires vessels conducting ballast water operation in US waters to use an approved BWM method in accordance with a phased-in schedule based on their ballast water capacity. The forthcoming January 2016 compliance date for existing vessels, constructed before 1 December 2013, with a ballast water capacity less than 1,500 m3 or greater than 5,000 m3 marks the final step of the phased-in compliance schedule.
As at 1 January 2016, all non-recreational vessels, new and existing, US and foreign, intending to conduct ballast water operations in US waters will be affected by the US Coast Guard’s regulation on BWM, and Members and clients are encouraged to:
- review and determine the compliance date for their fleet and initiate appropriate actions in well before a vessel is in need of conducting ballast water operations in US waters; an
- in light of the fact that no US Coast Guard type-approved BWMS are yet available, and industry players indicate little confidence in other type approved systems to perform satisfactorily under operational conditions, consider if it is necessary to obtain an extension to a vessel’s compliance date.
It is important to note that any extension requests to the US Coast Guard must be submitted at least 12 months prior to the original compliance date and must document that, despite all efforts, compliance is not possible. And since regulation 33 CFR 151does not define the term “first scheduled drydocking”, we recommend consulting the US Coast Guard Marine Safety Information Bulletin (MSIB) 13-15 dated 22 October 2015 for guidance when determining a vessel’s original compliance date. Recent updates to the extension policy In September 2015 the US Coast Guard issued a revised Policy Letter 13-01 providing updated guidance to vessel owners and operators seeking to extend compliance dates for implementing approved BWM.
With more than 2,000 extensions issued as of 25 September 2015, the application process has now been streamlined even further. Notable changes from the original version include:
- Removed 5-year limit on a vessel’s cumulative extension.
- Vessels that choose to install an alternate management system (AMS), a treatment system approved by foreign administration pursuant to the standard set out in the IMO BWM Convention, may also apply for an extension.
- Simplified application process and document requirements, such as highlighting the option for “batch” applications.
- Removed requirement to provide copy of a vessel’s BWM plan. A statement that a vessel has a BWM plan that the vessel will follow for discharges that take place in waters of the US is sufficient.
- Supplemental extension process has new sub-section to clarify application requirements.
- A vessel’s approved extension letter may be transferred to a new owner for the remainder of its extended compliance date.
Please note that paper applications by post are no longer acceptable. Extension requests must be submitted electronically as an e-mail, with an application spreadsheet with required information attached, to: firstname.lastname@example.org.For a copy of Policy Letter 13-01 and supporting documents and guidance related to the extension application process, please visit http://homeport.uscg.mil/ballastwater and to the item “Extended Compliance Dates – Application, Guidance, and Approved Vessels” in the “Regulations and Policy Documents” sub-folder. Vessel owners and operators should be aware that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 2013 Vessel General Permit (VGP) contains ballast water treatment technology requirements. In Section 1.9 of the 2013 VGP, the EPA advises that “where the US Coast Guard has granted or denied an extension request pursuant to 33 CFR 151.2036, that information will be considered by the EPA, but is not binding on the EPA.” As such, vessel owners/operators are encouraged to contact the EPA at the earliest opportunity to inquire about their vessel’s status regarding 2013 VGP ballast water technology requirements.
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