For quite some time, the maritime industry has longed for the harmonization of state and federal regulations for vessel ballast water discharges in the United States.

Concerns regarding overlapping mandates of the United States Coast Guard (USCG), United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), and state-specific regulations have made the implementation of ballast water treatment solutions costly and complicated for ship owners.

A Significant Milestone Has Been Reached

On November 14, 2018, the USCG Authorization Act was passed by the U.S. Senate with the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act (VIDA).

The VIDA Bill includes legislative language that amends the USCG regulations to allow for the use of reproductive methods for the testing and approval of ballast water management systems. The legislative language 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. Basically, organisms that can’t reproduce are as good as dead for the purposes of the regulation.

Furthermore, the USCG is required to develop a draft policy letter detailing reproductive methods based on best available science and the 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.

This would harmonize the USCG’s policy approach on reproductive methods in determining BWT system efficacy with that of the IMO. In 2017, the IMO officially approved the MPN method to determine viability / reproductive capability (IMO Document BWM.2-Circ.61).

The Path Ahead

The Bill will now move on to U.S. House of Representatives for a vote. If passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, it would then be signed into law by the President of the United States. We are very encouraged by this development and will continue to monitor the progress of the Bill in the coming weeks.

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