USCG ballast update

Malcolm Latarche
Malcolm Latarche

02 December 2016

Earlier today (Friday), Optimarin the Norwegian ballast treatment system maker announced that it had become the first to achieve US Type Approval. ShipInsight requested a copy of the certificate from Optimarin but was told that it was not yet available. However, the USCG has confirmed in its ballast treatment blog that the certificate has been issued for systems with treatment capacities ranging from 167m3/h to 3000m3/h. The USCG also said it is reviewing type approval applications from other manufacturers. Each type approval application includes thousands of pages of data and analysis to document compliance with the comprehensive land-based and shipboard testing requirements. In addition, the applications include detailed descriptions of materials, evaluations of component suitability for the maritime environment, and operating manuals. Optimarin’s system is a UV treatment system and its approval is therefore a significant event since there has long been some lingering doubts as to whether UV systems would be able to meet the kill standard required by US regulations. Optimarin has from the beginning put its system through the testing process according to the US requirements for testing effectiveness by the ‘vital stain’ method. Other manufacturers have relied on a different testing system allowed by IMO rules but not accepted by the US authorities. Most of those have since begun re-testing using the favoured method. “While this is a significant milestone, it is the first of multiple system approvals that are needed to mitigate the threat of harmful aquatic invasive species,” said US coast Guard Rear Adm. Paul Thomas, assistant commandant for prevention policy. “One size does not fit all, so we will continue to evaluate other systems submitted by multiple manufactures with the intent to provide options that meet shipping’s varying needs.” In conjunction with the Optimarin type approval certification, the Coast Guard released Marine Safety Information Bulletin 14-16. US regulations allow the Coast Guard to grant an extension to a vessel’s compliance date if the master, owner, operator, agent or person in charge (collectively “owner/operator”) documents that, despite all efforts, compliance with one of the approved ballast water management methods, including installation of a Coast Guard type-approved BWMS, is not possible. Now that a type-approved BWMS is available, any owner/operator requesting an extension must provide the Coast Guard with an explicit statement supported by documentary evidence (e.g., a delay in commercial availability) that installation of the type approved system is not possible for purposes of compliance with the regulatory implementation schedule. While this certification provides vessel owners and operators with a type-approved system to meet the ballast water discharge standard, there are other ways that vessels can comply with U.S. ballast water management regulations. These include:
  • Temporarily use of a foreign type-approved BWMS that has been accepted by the Coast Guard as an alternate management system (AMS) (5-year limitation) if installed in compliance with 33 CFR Part 151
  • Use of ballast water obtained exclusively from a U.S. public water system
  • Discharge of ballast water to a reception facility
  • No discharge of unmanaged ballast water inside 12nm
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