Pending Bill Sets Most Stringent Standards Ever, U.S. Senate Can Solve Ballast Water Problem

Toledo, OH – Great Lakes interests are urging Great Lakes Senators to take the lead and enact the world's most stringent Federal ballast water standards to end the introduction of non–indigenous species into U.S. waters. Legislation passed by the House of Representatives and approved by the Senate Commerce Committee would require vessels entering U.S. waters to comply with standards that are 100 times greater than existing international standards.

The House legislation, H.R. 2830, sponsored by Rep. Jim Oberstar (D-MN), and supported by Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-OH), ranking Republican on the Coast Guard subcommittee, has been endorsed both by the Great Lakes Maritime Task Force (GLMTF), an association of shipping companies, labor organizations, shipyards and ports, and a wide-ranging coalition of environmental groups, including Great Lakes United, National Wildlife Federation, Healing Our Waters Coalition, Defenders of Wildlife, the National Audubon Society, and The Nature Conservancy.

”For more than a decade Congress has wrestled with this issue, but this year we have seen a number of breakthroughs," said Patrick J. O'Hern, President of the Great Lakes Maritime Task Force and Vice President and General Manager of Bay Shipbuilding Company. ”The ballast water title from the House's Coast Guard Authorization Bill (H.R. 2830) is supported by both commercial maritime interests and the vast majority of environmental interests. The legislation is tough. An official from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has declared that the pending legislation is 'much more stringent' than any standards the EPA could apply under current law.”

It appeared the legislation would move forward last week, but objections from Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) have stalled approval.

”It is deeply regrettable we lost what may have been the best chance for enactment of ballast water legislation ever,” said Daniel L, Smith, 1st Vice President of GLMTF and formerly National Executive Vice President of American Maritime Officers. ”While we understand that ballast water and invasive species is a national issue, we are convinced that nothing will get done unless Great Lakes legislators - who have been the catalysts for the current legislation - make enactment of legislation this year their priority.”

”Passage of this legislation is critically important to the health of the Great Lakes,” said James H.I. Weakley, 2nd Vice President of GLMTF and President of Lake Carriers' Association. ”We need a strong Federal solution with clear regulatory authority. Multiple, conflicting requirements for mobile sources such as vessels are not in the best interest of the Great Lakes environment or economy.”

”With strong leadership by many Great Lakes legislators in both the House and the Senate, we stand on the verge of an effective solution to the problem of ballast water introductions of non-indigenous species,” said John D. Baker, 3rd Vice President of GLMTF and President of the ILA's Great Lakes District Council. ”We urge our Great Lakes Senators to enact this legislation.”

Great Lakes Maritime Task Force was founded in Toledo, Ohio, in 1992 to promote domestic and international shipping on the Great Lakes. With 83 members, it is the largest coalition to ever speak for the Great Lakes shipping community and draws its membership from both labor and management representing U.S.–Flag vessel operators, shipboard and longshore unions, port authorities, cargo shippers, terminal operators, shipyards and other Great Lakes interests. Its goals include restoring adequate funding for dredging of Great Lakes deep-draft ports and waterways, construction of a second Poe-sized lock at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan; protecting the nation's cabotage laws; maximizing the Lakes overseas trade; and opposing exports and increased diversions of Great Lakes water.

Glen G. Nekvasil
Secretary, Great Lakes Maritime Task Force