The US Coast Guard (USCG) issued a policy letter providing guidelines for evaluating potential courses of action when a vessel bound for a US port has an inoperable ballast water management system.
As a reminder, the United States is not a party to the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments (BWM Convention) and will not accept BWM Convention certificates as equivalent to U.S. domestic requirements. Accordingly, vessels discharging ballast water (BW) into the waters of the U.S. must comply with the requirements of 33 CFR 151.
This USCG Letter provides guidance to vessel masters, owners, operators, agents, and persons in charge of vessels subject to Subparts C and D of Part 151 of Title 33 of the Code of Federal Regulations (33 CFR 151 Subparts C and D) as well as Coast Guard personnel when evaluating potential courses of action when a vessel destined for a U.S. port has an inoperable ballast water management system (BWMS). This Policy Letter does not address situations where the inoperable BWMS is the result of an emergency situation caused by weather, vessel casualty, flooding, etc..
33 CFR 151 Subparts C and D provide vessels a list of approved ballast water management (BWM) methods including the use of a BWMS, use of ballast water from a U.S. public water system (PWS) that meets the requirements of 40 CFR parts 141 and 143, performing complete ballast water exchange (BWE) in an area 200 nautical miles from any shore, retaining all BW while in the waters of the U.S., or discharging to a shoreside facility or another vessel for the purpose of treating the BW.
If the vessel is otherwise unable to comply with 33 CFR 151.1510(a) or 33 CFR 151.2025(a), the person directing the movement of a vessel must ensure that the inoperable BWMS is reported to the nearest COTP or District Commander as soon as possible. Using guidance provided in the vessel’s BWM Plan, the person making the report should be prepared to discuss alternative BWM strategies available to the vessel based on its capabilities, route and voyage duration. An alternative strategy that results in the discharge of untreated BW into the waters of the U.S. will only be authorized for safety or stability concerns, and should not be implemented unless authorized by the COTP or District Commander.