Vessel Incidental Discharge Act (VIDA) Signed Into Law

On December 4, 2018 the United States Coast Guard (USCG) Authorization Act, including VIDA, was signed into law by President Trump. VIDA amends the USCG regulations to allow for the use of reproductive methods by explicitly expanding the definition of “living” to ensure that organisms that can’t reproduce (nonviable) are not considered to be living.

The Path Ahead

With the signing of the bill, the USCG now has up to 180 days to a draft policy letter detailing reproductive methods based on best available science. In accordance with the Act, USCG must consider Type Approval testing methodologies that utilize organism grow-out and Most Probable Number (MPN) analysis to determine the number of viable organisms in ballast water that are capable of reproduction.

Reproductive methods have been used by the IMO for many years. In 2017, the IMO officially approved the MPN reproductive method to determine viability (BWM.2-Circ.61) establishing a basis for the best available science.

Following the release of the draft policy letter, a period for public comment shall be provided for no more than 60 days and the final policy shall be published no later than 360 days after the date of enactment of the Act.

Further Alignment

With this new legislation, the U.S. and the international standard on ballast water are closer aligned by providing a similar framework for Type Approval. More importantly, this legislation will help facilitate the process for many system manufacturers toward USCG Type Approval – ultimately giving shipowners more options and the reassurance they deserve.