Great Lakes Ports Support Ballast Reforms

Maritime Activity Reports, Inc.

July 19, 2016

Directors of major commercial ports in the Great Lakes region called on Congress to end years of regulatory chaos surrounding ballast water management. 


In a joint letter issued late yesterday, 14 port directors urged the Senate Armed Services Committee to include ballast regulatory reform in the final version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).  Known as the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act (VIDA), these regulatory reforms were included in the House-passed NDAA, but not the Senate-passed version.  Currently, a House-Senate conference committee is working to hammer-out a final version of the legislation.
When not fully loaded, cargo ships must take on water (ballast) to maintain their stability.  Ballast pumped onboard in one port may inadvertently contain aquatic organisms that are then released when the ballast is discharged in another port.  In this regard, ships can be a vector for the movement of non-native species.  To protect the environment, Great Lakes ports support regulations to require ocean-going vessels to install ballast water treatment systems to filter and clean the water prior to discharge.  Because commercial vessels operate between states and nations, a federal approach to this issue makes most sense for the environment and economy.
"In the Great Lakes region, two federal agencies and seven of eight states have their own ballast water discharge regulations.  Some of these rules are harmonized and some are not.  The resulting chaos has negatively impacted shipping," explained Steve Fisher, Executive Director of the American Great Lakes Ports Association.
Paul LaMarre, Director of the Port of Monroe, commented " Michigan's ballast water discharge rules are different than both federal rules and those of neighboring states.  Since their implementation in 2007, they have discouraged commerce at Michigan ports.  Not a single vessel operator has attempted to comply, but rather, have avoided doing business in the state.  While Michigan's rules intend to protect the Great Lakes, instead they simply push ship discharges to the ports of neighboring states in shared waters."
Will Friedman, Executive Director of the Port of Cleveland, added "State ballast water rules are up for reissuance in 2018 which raises concern.  While Ohio's rules are harmonized with federal rules, our commerce must pass through other states where we have no control.  In 2008 New York threatened Ohio's trade by proposing onerous ballast regulations for ships simply passing through New York on the St. Lawrence Seaway."
The regulatory reforms contained in the House-passed defense bill would consolidate all ballast water regulation in the U.S. Coast Guard, while providing for the same level of environmental protection as exists today.  The legislation provides for upgrading environmental standards should technology be available in the future.

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