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Update by USCG on ballast water management (BWM) regulations

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Statutory: The USCG has issued a Marine Safety Information Bulletin (MSIB number 13-15) which contains important information on compliance dates. These are relevant for the clarification of the first scheduled drydocking and the offering of an early extension of D2 compliance.
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Relevant for shipowners/managers who operate vessels in US waters.

Reference is made to MSIB 13-15, dated 22 October 2015, which is available on the USCG website at www.uscg.mil/msib/. Please note important observations from this bulletin in the following.

“First scheduled drydocking” is defined as the start of drydocking (DD). This implies that if the DD is started but not terminated in 2015, this will not be a qualifier for D2 compliance according to the BWM implementation schedule (for existing vessels with total BW capacity of less than 1,500m3 or greater than 5,000m3). So if DD is terminated in 2016, installation of a ballast water management system (BWMS) is not required.

As for DD which satisfies the class for endorsing the ship safety certificate or ship safety construction certificate as the required survey of the bottom of the ship, this DD date is considered the first scheduled DD. Additionally, any planned DD started after 2015 which is not for emergency repairs is considered the first scheduled DD, too. Further, the USCG clarifies that “a vessel’s extended compliance date will now be the ‘next scheduled drydocking’ after the vessel’s original compliance date.” Currently, extensions are given until 1 January 2018 only.

The new practice will mean that if a vessel is up for “scheduled drydocking” in March 2017, for example, and applies for extension today, it will receive a D2 compliance extension until the subsequent next scheduled DD, which will probably be in March 2022 (instead of 1 January 2018).

Vessels that already have an extension until 1 January 2018 (some vessels have it just until 1 January 2017) may apply for a supplemental extension (extension of the extension) according to the MSIB, but no later than 90 days prior to the expiration of the extension.

As a result, shipowners and managers now have the option and flexibility to extend the installation of a BWMS until the subsequent next scheduled DD after the original implementation date. However, it should be considered that claiming “no available BWMS with USCG type approval” will be more difficult if such system is available in the market (which will likely be the case by late 2016).

Reference is also made to CG-OES Policy Letter No 13-01 Rev 1, which is available at http://homeport.uscg.mil/ballastwater in the “Regulations and Policy Documents” subfolder. This web page also contains information on applying for an extended compliance date.

Furthermore, attention should also be paid to the following quote from CG-OES Policy Letter No 13-01: 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 U.S. Coast Guard has granted or denied an extension request pursuant to 33 CFR 151.2036, that information will be considered by EPA, but is not binding on EPA.” As such, vessel owners/operators are encouraged to contact EPA at the earliest opportunity to inquire about their vessel’s status regarding 2013 VGP ballast water technology requirements.

The EPA has verbally committed to a “low enforcement policy”, but owners and operators should be aware of that the US has two legislations on BWMS implementation.

All shipowners and managers operating vessels in US waters should consider the policy changes and evaluate the pros and cons of an extended implementation date for each vessel in their fleet.