Federal Regulation of Ballast Water

GOAL: Vessel discharge standards that are both protective of the environment and maintain efficient waterborne commerce on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway.

BACKGROUND: Vessel discharges, such as ballast water, are critical to maintain safe and efficient operations. The maritime industry has a long history of establishing best management practices and technical innovations to ensure the Great Lakes ecosystem, is protected. However, ensuing legal battles opened the door for each state and multiple federal agencies to establish their own regulatory regimes that were sometimes impossible to meet and often conflicting. Great Lakes stakeholders pushed for a better way.

The Vessel Incidental Discharge Act (VIDA) included in the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2018 establishes the long-sought process to re-establish uniform federal discharge requirements jointly regulated by the U.S Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Coast Guard. The U.S. EPA has two years to develop these discharge regulations and then the U.S. Coast Guard has an additional two years to write their enabling regulations.

Being freshwater, the Great Lakes are a unique environment and require regulations specific to their interwoven ecologic and economic circumstances. The eight Great Lakes states, working through the Great Lakes Commission, will explore Great Lakes-specific requirements.

VIDA promises to end the years of sometime contentious debate over regulation of vessel discharges, in particular, ballast water. GLMTF and its members pledge their full support for the VIDA process and look forward to working with other stakeholders to protect the Great Lakes/Seaway environment and maritime economy, a transportation system that is the most cost effective and fuel efficient in North America.

ACTION: Work with the eight Great Lakes states and other stakeholders to develop federal vessel discharge regulations for the Great Lakes authorized in the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act (VIDA), included in the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2018.