Due to a lack of familiarity with the differences between the definitions of “ports and places” for ballast water management and ballast water reporting, some vessels have unwittingly neglected to submit separate BWMRs for each port during recent calls to California, especially when these ports are within the San Francisco Bay area, ECM explained.

As such, the alert highlights that there are differences in the description of “ports and places” under California’s BWM requirements, when compared with the state’s ballast water reporting requirements.

We have received reports of vessels being cited by the SLC for submitting a BWMR prior arrival San Francisco, but not submitting another report for a subsequent call at Sacramento or Stockton. Those vessels mistakenly assumed that since the San Francisco Bay area was considered to be one port region under the ballast water management regulations, it remained the same for the purposes of ballast water reporting.

Regulatory requirements

A. Under California’s pre-arrival ballast water management requirements, vessels do not need to manage ballast water that is sourced and discharged at the same port within the PCR.

For ballast water management purposes, the following port regions/port complexes are considered a single port :

  • All areas in the San Francisco Bay area east of the Golden Gate Bridge, including the Ports of Stockton and Sacramento
  • The Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and the El Segundo offshore marine oil terminal.

B. Under the pre-arrival ballast water reporting requirements described in an SLC Letter dated 19 April 2017, vessels must submit their BWMR at least 24 hours before arriving at that California port. If the vessel’s voyage is less than 24 hours, the vessel must submit the report prior to departing from the last port (e.g., for a voyage from Los Angeles to San Diego, a vessel must submit the BWMR prior to departing from the port of Los Angeles.)

For ballast water reporting purposes, the following places are recognized as separate ports. All terminals, berths, and anchorages within each port area are considered a part of that port:

Credit: ECM Maritime Services


To date, SLC inspectors have only issued a Letter of Noncompliance to each company involved in a first-time reporting violation. The letter served as a warning to the vessel owner/operator and stated that subsequent violations of the same type (by the company) will be subject to a penalty of $1,000 per violation.


Vessels calling at multiple ports in California are advised to ensure that a BWMR is submitted prior to arrival every port, as per section B above.

Even if a port call only involves a stay at anchor for storing, crew change, bunkering, etc. (no cargo operations) it should be treated as a separate call and a BWMR submitted in advance.