This week, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed standards to reduce the environmental impact of discharges, such as ballast water, that are incidental to the normal operation of commercial vessels.
When finalized, this new rule is expected to streamline the current patchwork of federal, state, and local requirements that apply to the commercial vessel community, an official EPA statement reads.
EPA’s proposed standards would apply to:
- Commercial vessels greater than 79 feet in length.
- Other non-recreational, non-Armed Forces vessels, such as research and emergency rescue vessels.
- Ballast water only from small vessels (vessels less than 79 feet in length) and fishing vessels of all sizes.
The proposed rule also outlines procedures for states working through EPA or the USCG to seek more stringent requirements, request emergency orders, or apply for no-discharge zones for one or more of the incidental discharges in any or all state waters.
On 4 December 2018, the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act (VIDA) was enacted into law. VIDA brings the USCG’s type-approval methodology for ballast water treatment systems (BWTS) into line with that of the IMO’s, i.e. the most probable number (MPN) analysis method.
This change came about following intensive lobbying by manufacturers of BWTS, particularly of UV based systems where fewer UV lamps are needed to render the microorganisms in the ballast water “non-viable” (inability to reproduce) as opposed to “dead”, making these systems more cost effective to operate.
VIDA also extended the validity of VGP 2013 beyond 18 December 2018 and charged the EPA with the task of establishing vessel discharge standards no later than two years after enactment, i.e. by 3 December 2020, and the USCG with the task of enforcing the VGP. VGP 2013 remains in effect until EPA and the USCG have created new regulations addressing vessel discharges.
EPA will accept comment on its present proposal for 30 days, following publication in the Federal Register.