UPDATE: OMB Declares USCG BWT Standard as "Final"

Joseph Keefe
Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Draft USCG ballast water rule now finalized, according to OMB.

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) completed its review of the Coast Guard's Ballast Water Discharge Standard regulations in accordance with Executive Order 12866, and changed its designation from an Interim Final Rule to a Final Rule on February 24, 2012. The Coast Guard is preparing it for publication in the Federal Register, and expects to complete the administrative process within 30 days.


John Morris of the U.S. Coast Guard's Environmental Standards Division said in a prepared statement, "We are not at liberty to discuss details of the rule until it is actually published, but wanted to clear up confusion about its status. A copy of OMB's summary is attached, with the second entry at top, and is also available on its website at http://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/eoPackageMain."


That announcment cleared up confusion regarding an earlier OMB note that stated that it had returned to the US Coast Guard the draft interim final rule for Standards for Living Organisms in Ships' Ballast water Discharged in U.S. Waters. OMB said only that the rule was "improperly submitted." As it turns out, the change reflected the rule's desgnation to final. Certainly, the news will be welcome to shipowners who would like to get Ballast Water Treatment (BWT) equipment installed and for BWT manufacturers who would like to gear up for the almost 40,000 hulls that will need systems in the near future. An IMO standard is already in play, with many nations as signatories. Most stakeholders hope (and expect) that the Coast Guard's interim rule will mirror the IMO standard. Stakeholders may have to wait up to 30 days from February 24th to find out.


In other news, the Coast Guard published a Final Rule amending its vessel inspection regulations to add the International Anti-fouling System (IAFS) Certificate to the list of certificates a recognized classification society may issue on behalf of the Coast Guard.  This action carries out recently enacted legislation implementing the International Convention on the Control of Harmful Anti-fouling Systems on Ships, 2001. 

Separately, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) last week issued a press release stating that it will pursue a uniform national ballast water standard by  leaving in place the EPA’s current standards in New York for the remainder of EPA’s current Vessel General Permit through December 2013.

New York’s decision to (at least temporarily) release its hold on a standard that is unattainable and one which no technology yet exists to measure its efficacy, was viewed by most stakeholders as very good news. The move also gives hope that a national standard can be achieved at some point in the future. Both the American Great Lakes Ports Association and Transport Canada applauded the decision.  

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