Wednesday, April 1, 2009

2008 Great Lakes Ballast Water Management Report

Apr 1: The Great Lakes Ballast Water Working Group (BWWG) has released the Great Lakes Ballast Water Management Report. The BWWG report was compiled by the Great Lakes Seaway Ballast Water Working Group (BWWG), comprised of representatives of the United States Coast Guard (USCG), the U.S. Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation (SLSDC), Transport Canada - Marine Safety (TCMS), and the Canadian St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation (SLSMC).

The group’s mandate is to develop, enhance, and coordinate binational enforcement and compliance efforts to reduce the introduction of aquatic invasive species via ballast water. The BWWG is actively engaged and providing an energetic response to calls for tougher ballast water regulation of ocean-going ships transiting the Seaway.

According to a release the report shows a notable increase in the number of ballast tank inspections of oceangoing commercial ships entering the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway System from outside U.S. or Canadian waters. The 2008 report includes a marked improvement over the prior year's inspection program statistics in a number of areas, including ship compliance rates. Some of those highlights of the report: - 99% of ships bound for the Great Lakes Seaway received a ballast tank exam compared to 74% from 2007; - A total of 6704 ballast tanks, onboard 364 different ships, were sampled and had a 98.6% compliance rate compared to 95% in 2007; - In addition, 100% of ballast water reporting forms were screened to assess ballast water history, compliance, voyage information and proposed discharge location; and,

- Ships with non-compliant ballast tanks were required to take one of several options: (1) retain the ballast water and residuals on board, (2) treat the ballast water in an environmentally sound and approved manner, or (3) conduct a ballast water exchange at sea.

The report concludes, "For any regulatory regime to be effective, all the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence Seaway must be treated as a single system. The only way to ensure consistent ballast discharge regulations across the Great Lakes Seaway System is to have strong federally mandated standards managed by unified federal agency coordination between Canada and the U.S. A patchwork of state or province led regulatory ballast water regimes within the Great Lakes Seaway increases the legal, operational and administrative burden of inconsistent regulations and negatively impacts ship compliance and operation. Even worse, is that this suite of regulations would effectively deter ships from transiting or completing loading/unloading operations in some state waters. The current high effectiveness of ballast water exchange coupled with the BWWG’s aggressive enforcement of current regulations and the high industry compliance rate minimize the urgency for state involvement in ballast water regulation. Further impediments to ship trade will make the shipping industry and the associated economic stimulus even less viable in the future."

Access a release from the Coast Guard with links to the participating organizations (
click here). Access the complete 14-page report (click here).