U.S. Ports Endorse Ballast Water Legislation

Wednesday, October 18, 2000
In response to the growing trend of state laws regulating ballast water discharges from ships, U.S. ports plan to develop a legislative proposal that would: 1) establish a strong Federal ballast water management program; and, 2) preempt state legislation in this area. During the Monday, October 16, meeting of AAPA's U.S. Legislative Policy Council (USLPC) representing the Association's 84 U.S. port members, Chairman of the Board J. Robert Bray, Executive Director of the Virginia Port Authority, led the discussion of concepts for legislation in the area of ballast water and introduction of nonindigenous species. The USLPC voted unanimously to adopt the position which reflects Association members' growing concern over the development of new regulations in this area. "The port industry recognizes the serious environmental and human health risks posed by invasive species, and we will work with the Congress, the Coast Guard and others to promote responsible laws, policies, and regulations related to ballast water management,"said Mr. Bray. "AAPA supports solutions to the transportation and introduction of nonindigenous aquatic species that are international in scope, flexible in application, and targeted at the source," he added. AAPA's ballast water legislation will include an amendment to the National Invasive Species Act (NISA) to direct the Coast Guard to make mandatory, with a safety exemption, the current voluntary ballast water exchange provision. Under existing law, the Coast Guard cannot make ballast exchange mandatory until January 2002 at the earliest, and only then if compliance with the voluntary program is determined to be "inadequate." Last year, the state of California enacted a mandatory ballast water exchange program. Washington State's ballast water program maintains a safety exemption only until July 2002, after which time a ship must employ some form of ballast water treatment that is as effective as ballast exchange. Currently, all ships entering the Great Lakes must perform some form of ballast water management at least as effective as ballast exchange or they are prohibited from discharging ballast in the Lakes. AAPA's legislative proposal will also direct the Coast Guard, in coordination with EPA, to develop a quantitative standard that can be used to evaluate the effectiveness of ballast water management alternatives. Under existing law, the Coast Guard can approve ballast water management measures that are at least as effective as ballast exchange, but it does not direct them to facilitate development of ballast water management alternatives. Ballast water exchange is widely recognized as only a stop-gap measure to minimize the introduction of nuisance species. While there is some data suggesting that physical exchange with mid-ocean water can reach 90-95% effectiveness, other data suggest that the level of organism removal is much lower. Ballast exchange is also: 1) limited to fairly long voyages; 2) expensive due to increased fuel consumption, pump wear, and labor costs; and, 3) potentially dangerous to the operation of ships. Thus, there is a great need to develop more effective and efficient approaches to ballast water management on ships. AAPA's legislative proposal will also call for establishment of a coordinated ballast water management technology verification program. This program would encourage public-private partnerships to evaluate and verify the effectiveness of ballast water management technologies. The Coast Guard, in coordination with EPA, would be required to develop specific technology verification protocols. Finally, draft legislation will propose amending NISA to explicitly preempt state regulation of ballast water discharges from vessels.
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