The U.S. Coast Guard announced the beginning of a program aimed at facilitating the installation of experimental shipboard ballast water treatment systems. Foreign and domestic vessel owners that participate in the program may be granted equivalencies to U.S. ballast water regulations for participating vessels. The Shipboard Technology Evaluation Program (STEP) is one of several Coast Guard initiatives aimed at reducing the introduction of nonindigenous species (NIS) to U.S. waters through ballast water. The impacts of NIS on our environment, food supply, economy, health and overall biodiversity of our waterways are significant and increasing.
"This is one of the many things we are doing to protect our waters," said Capt. Dave Scott, chief of the Coast Guard's Office of Operating and Environmental Standards. "Our environmental protection programs, like our security patrols and rescue missions, are all aimed at keeping our waters safe and available for public use and enjoyment."
Later this year, Coast Guard regulations will require that ships coming from outside U.S. waters take steps to eliminate NIS from their ballast water, and future regulations may outline specific NIS ballast water discharge standards
. Currently, the predominant method of reducing the number of NIS in ballast water is conducting a mid-ocean exchange, a procedure that not all ships can safely or reasonably conduct. This new program is intended to facilitate the research and development of shipboard ballast water treatment systems, creating more options for vessel owners seeking alternatives to ballast water exchange. Through the STEP, the Coast Guard will grant conditional equivalencies for accepted vessels, as an incentive for vessel owners to participate in shipboard evaluations of prototype treatment systems that might not meet discharge standards mandated by future regulations. The STEP is available to all vessels subject to the Coast Guard's Ballast Water Management regulations, 46 CFR 151 Subparts C and D.
More information on the Coast Guard's ballast water program and STEP application packages are available at:
Potential applicants should contact the Coast Guard Environmental Standards Division (G-MSO-4) staff at 202-267-2716 or EnvironmentalStandards@comdt.uscg.mil prior to submission, to discuss the criteria for acceptance, application process and documentation requirements. Applications for STEP may be submitted beginning April 1, 2004.