Photo Caption: Petty Officer Travis Kelly looks through a refractometer at a sample of ballast water.
In our Great Lakes, more than 160 non-native species have been introduced since the 1800s—one-third of which have appeared in the past 30 years. The zebra mussel alone is estimated to have cost $750 million to $1 billion in damages or control measures between 1989 and 2000. The Chesapeake and San Francisco Bays, Puget Sound, and other waters of the U.S. have been similarly affected by aquatic nuisance species.
Their spread is a threat to the global marine environment, not just to U.S. waters. The North American comb jellyfish has decimated Black Sea anchovy fisheries. Chinese mitten crabs burrow into German riverbanks, and “red tides” caused by Japanese toxic dinoflagellates impact Australian shellfish beds.
In response to concerns regarding aquatic nuisance species in the Great Lakes in the mid-1980s, the federal government enacted the Nonindigenous Aquatic Nuisance Prevention and Control Act of 1990 (NANPCA). It was reauthorized and expanded to cover all U.S. waters with the National Invasive Species Act of 1996 (NISA).
NANPCA/NISA directed the Coast Guard, in association with the Smithsonian Institution, to establish the National Ballast Information Clearinghouse (NBIC). The Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Edgewater, Md., created and maintains the NBIC’s electronic database to track and analyze changes in patterns of ballast water discharge and management in U.S. waters.
Under NANPCA, the Coast Guard developed mandatory ballast water management (BWM) regulations for vessels in the Great Lakes in 1993, and extended them to the Hudson River north of the George Washington Bridge in 1994.
In 1996, NISA established a national ballast water management program for all U.S. waters. The Coast Guard issued voluntary guidelines in 1999 and mandatory regulations in 2004. These regulations require each vessel to maintain a BWM plan and assign responsibility to the master or appropriate official to execute the ballast water management strategy. All vessels arriving in U.S. ports or places must submit BWM reports to the National Ballast Information Clearinghouse.
The Coast Guard has also developed the Navigation and Vessel Inspection Circular 07-04, Change-1, “Ballast Water Management for the Control of Aquatic Nuisance Species in the Waters of the United States,” to provide guidance concerning compliance with and enforcement of the BWM program.
In 2005 the Coast Guard established a policy for vessels declaring “no ballast on board,” or NOBOB. These NOBOB vessels may carry unpumpable ballast water and/or sediments in their ballast tanks. The policy encourages NOBOB vessels to conduct mid-ocean exchange on all ballast-laden voyages or, if unable to do so, conduct saltwater flushing of their “empty” ballast tanks prior to entering the Great Lakes.
The International Maritime Organization (IMO) adopted the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments in 2004. The Coast Guard coordinates the U.S. government’s participation on the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC), which serves as the IMO’s coordinating body on marine pollution issues, and develops agreements and technical and administrative guidelines for convention implementation.
The Coast Guard works with other federal agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, Fish and Wildlife Service, Maritime Administration, Navy Department, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and State Department, to coordinate U.S. government positions and analyses on issues for IMO MEPC meetings.
The United States, Canada, the U.S. St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation, and the Canadian St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation cooperate to inspect vessels entering the Great Lakes. The Coast Guard and Transport Canada signed an agreement in 2004 to share resources and track results.
Ballast Water Management Systems
The Coast Guard is developing a program for type approval of BWM systems and coordinating with the EPA regarding ballast water management systems that use active substances. These technologies may include:
- mechanical means of removal such as filtration or separation;
- physical means of killing or disabling organisms such as ultraviolet light, de-oxygenation, ultrasound, or cavitation;
- chemical biocides added to ballast water or generated aboard, such as ozone or hypochlorite generators.
The Coast Guard initiated the Shipboard Technology Evaluation Program (STEP) to provide incentive for ship owners to participate in the experimental testing of prototype BWM systems. Ships with installed experimental ballast water management systems accepted to participate in STEP may receive a designation of equivalency to future ballast water discharge standard regulations.
For more information:
Full article and “Environmental Protection” edition of USCG Proceedings is available at http://www.uscg.mil/proceedings/Winter2008-09/.
Subscribe online at http://www.uscg.mil/proceedings/subscribe.asp.
Direct requests for print copies of this edition to: HQS-DG-NMCProceedings@uscg.mil.