Ballast Water Treatment - U.S. Rules, Permanent Ballast and New York State

Ballast water

Published: 4 August 2014

The Developments 

Members are no doubt closely following the developments with respect to the ratification of the Ballast Water Treatment Convention, and the post-summer MEPC 67 meeting.

In the meantime it is worth remembering that under U.S. law, the Coast Guard has already issued its “final rule”, effective June 2012. 

Members can review the previous advice on the U.S. position here :

  • US Ballast water management information
    12 November 2012
  • US Ballast water managment update
    29 August 2012

An issue that has given rise to confusion is the status of State legislation on Ballast Water Treatment, as compared to Federal Legislation. In particular with respect to the possibility of vessels using a permanent ballast system when calling at U.S. Ports. 

The option of permanent ballast under U.S. Coast Guard Rules and the Ballast Water Convention

The summary position is that the relevant US Coast Guard (“USCG”) regulations do not require vessels containing permanent ballast water to install a ballast water treatment system (“BWTS”) onboard. 

In June 2012, the USCG’s Final Rule, Standards for Living Organisms in Ships’ Ballast Water Discharged in U.S. Waters, went into effect. This Final Rule established standards for the allowable concentration of living organisms in ballast water which is discharged into U.S. waters, and required certain vessels to operate an approved BWTS. The USCG specifically confirms that the regulations relating to BWTS do not relate to water sealed in ballast tanks, or water permanently ballasted. 

Notably, the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships' Ballast Water and Sediments, which is not yet in force, but which has been used as a guideline by the USCG in establishing its guidelines, does not apply to vessels not designed or constructed to carry ballast water, or to vessels in permanent ballast with water in sealed tanks not subject to discharge.    

State Legislation

As Members will have seen from previous Association advices, there are a number of State legislatures, including New York State, which have enacted legislation separate to that found at the Federal level.

This has caused some confusion, not least because such State legislation may be expressed in different wording or provide for different requirements, as between States and at Federal level. 

Where a State has passed separate legislation then it will stand as a separate body of law to Federal legislation and would have to be complied with whenever a vessel enters the waters of a particular State. That can mean having to comply with more stringent requirements that may be found at Federal level. 

With specific reference to the provisions found in New York State, as may be seen in the N.Y. Department of Environment Conservation Notice of 3 November 2008, each vessel operating in New York waters is required to have a BWTS installed by no later than 1 January 2012.

This condition does not apply to vessels carrying permanent ballast water in sealed tanks. 

For certain vessels types, particularly Car Carriers / Ro-Ros, it may therefore be a possibility to consider permanent ballast systems as an alternative to installing a BWTS, when calling at U.S. Ports including New York State.

The Association is grateful to Messrs. Chalos & Co., New York, for contributing to this update.