US Propose Mandatory Ballast Requirements

The US Coast Guard issued a proposed rulemaking this week regarding the mandatory management of ballast water for all ships bound for US ports. As per the requirements given under the National Invasive Species Act the USCG is authorised to control the introduction of non-native species through ships’ ballast water. This was previously managed through voluntary guidelines initiated by the USCG but due to low reporting and low compliance with these requirements, the Secretary of Transportation has requested that these guidelines be mandated.

The USCG has acted so far on three issues. Firstly, the USCG mandated the submission of Ballast Water Management Reports in January 2003, implementing penalties for failure to submit such documents. Secondly, an advance notice of proposed rulemaking was made in early 2002 which sought comments on the development of a ballast water treatment standard. This is still under deliberation. Finally, a notice regarding the approval of on-board experimental treatment installations was given in which the USCG aims to encourage vessel operators to assist in the development of treatment technology.

In its latest proposed rulemaking, the USCG will require all vessels entering US waters from outside the US Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) to treat ballast water using either ballast water exchange, a USCG-approved treatment method or to discharge the ballast at a reception facility. Two ballast exchange methods are recognised by the USCG, empty/refill exchange and flow-through. In the latter case, the volume of water equal to three times the ballast tank capacity must be pumped to make a complete exchange.

The deadline for comments on the proposed rule is 28 October 2003. The USCG will then consider the rule further before establishing a time frame for implementation.

Contact: Tim Wilkins,