Canadian Ship Owners Challenge New US Ballast Rules

By Justina Reichel
Justina Reichel
Justina Reichel
January 8, 2014 Updated: January 8, 2014

Canadian ship owners are seeking a legal review in the United States in light of new regulations launched by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The Canadian Shipowners Association (CSA) announced the move Tuesday in response to the EPA’s new Vessel General Permit (VGP). 

The CSA says a review is necessary because the VGP imposes requirements that are currently impossible to meet. It hopes that the review will ensure “fairness and predictability” for CSA members operating in the U.S. waters of the Great Lakes.

The EPA’s new rules for ballast water system discharge—water pumped in and out of large tanks on ships to stabilize the vessels—were implemented on Dec. 19, 2013.

While recognizing the importance of marine protection, the CSA says no available technology has been approved for the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence waterway, and imposing restrictions could have a negative effect on commercial shipping in the area.

“While the regulation of ballast water discharges is a global challenge, we need an immediate and flexible solution that recognizes the unique situation for vessels that trade on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway system,” CSA president Robert Lewis-Manning said in a press release Tuesday.

When discharged, a ship’s ballast water can be a threat because it is prone to carrying invasive species such as zebra mussels and introducing them to native habitats.

Currently there are two federal ballast water discharge regimes; one imposed by the EPA and the other by the United States Coast Guard. The USCG will eventually certify ballast water treatment systems for use in ships. However, as yet no systems exist that can meet the qualifications, so the USCG has given extensions to affected vessels.

The EPA, however, has not responded to industry’s request for permit extensions.

“We would like to see the EPA harmonize with the approach of the USCG and facilitate continued operations,” said Lewis-Manning.

The CSA has called for a “short-term solution” to facilitate trade given the dependence of American and Canadian industry on the marine transportation sector.

“This untenable situation could lead to significant impacts for Canadian ship owners if left unresolved,” the CSA said in a Dec. 19 statement.