New advice on extensions for compliance with the US Coast Guard’s (USCG’s) ballast water management regulations has been issued in response to “widespread misunderstanding of the previously issued guidance”, according to a blog post yesterday (6 March) by Rear Adm Paul Thomas, assistant commandant for prevention policy at the USCG.
He said that the USCG had received hundreds of extension requests and dozens of questions that revealed a need for “additional clarity and certainty for all stakeholders.” In response, it has issued a new Marine Safety Information Bulletin, MSIB 003/17.
This confirms extensions are available to shipowners that have documented that, “despite all efforts, compliance with one of the approved ballast water management methods is not possible.” It then sets out how it will review extension applications, based on ships’ individual compliance dates.
The blog post explains that, because USCG type-approved BWMSs are now available, “future extensions will no longer be linked to the vessel dry dock cycle. Instead the length of extension will be based on the analysis provided in the extension request and limited as set forth in the procedure.”
The MSIB explains how installations involving Alternate Management System (AMS) equipment will be assessed, and confirms the opportunity reported recently that could allow an AMS to be used until 2027. If a ship is able to claim an extension, “an AMS can be installed before the vessel’s compliance date and used for up to five years after the vessel’s compliance date," the bulletin confirms.
But ships that already have an AMS installed “do not qualify for an extension because the vessel is in compliance with the regulations,” the MSIB says, and “the AMS can be used for a period of five years after the vessel’s compliance date.”
In his blog post, Thomas said the USCG “remains committed to smooth implementation of the BWM regulations and to finding reasonable and practical solutions to facilitate installation of BWMS in the global fleet. Vessel owners/operators should proactively engage their flag state, classification society and the USCG as they develop compliance strategies in order to avoid ship delays or lapse in eligibility to trade in US waters.”