Ballast Water Inspections Improve, GL/Seaway

Thursday, March 19, 2009

A new U.S. government report released March 13 showed a notable increase in the number of ballast tank inspections of oceangoing commercial ships entering the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway System from outside U.S. or Canadian waters.  Ship operators also improved their compliance with ballast water requirements in 2008 compared with 2007, the report says.

The 2008 Summary of Great Lakes Seaway Ballast Water Working Group released by the U.S. Coast Guard examined the U.S.-Canada Great Lakes Seaway System ballast water ship inspection program.  The report finds that 99 percent of all oceangoing ships bound for the Great Lakes Seaway System ports from outside U.S. or Canadian waters in 2008 received a ballast tank exam, compared with 74 percent in 2007.  Moreover, the report found that 98.6 percent of all ships were in compliance with ballast water management requirements, compared with 95 percent in 2007.

The report was prepared by the Great Lakes Seaway Ballast Water Working Group (BWWG), which includes representatives of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation (SLSDC), the U.S. Coast Guard Ninth District, Transport Canada, and the Canadian St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation.  The group coordinates U.S. and Canadian enforcement and compliance efforts to reduce the introduction of aquatic invasive species in the Great Lakes via ships’ ballast water.

In 2008, the SLSDC implemented regulations requiring all oceangoing ships with no ballast in their tanks to conduct saltwater flushing of their empty ballast water tanks before arriving in the Seaway.

“The new Seaway regulations, along with those of Transport Canada and the U.S. Coast Guard and best management practices, strengthen environmental oversight of oceangoing ships prior to entering the Seaway,” said U.S. SLSDC Administrator Collister Johnson, Jr.  “This collective inspection regime is critical to preventing the further introduction of invasive species into the Great Lakes.”

In 2008, 96 percent of all ballast tanks (6,704 of 6,983) were sampled, compared with 78 percent in 2007. In addition, all reporting forms for each ship were examined to assess ballast water history, compliance, voyage information, and proposed discharge location.  Ships with non-compliant ballast tanks were required to take one of several options:  (1) retain the ballast water and residuals on board, (2) treat the ballast water in an environmentally sound and approved manner, or (3) conduct a ballast water exchange at sea.

In reviewing the findings, Richard Corfe, President and CEO of the Canadian St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation emphasized that, "sustainability is a priority governing all of our actions and initiatives and to be sustainable, we have to eliminate the further introduction of aquatic nuisance species into the Great Lakes.  This report highlights the very tangible progress that we are making toward this goal."

The BWWG expects high compliance rates for ships to continue in 2009, noting in the report that “… ballast water management requirements in the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence Seaway System are among the most stringent in the world.”  A copy of the report can be found at

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