Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Ballast Water Workshop

About the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Ballast Water Worskhop

In November 2016, the Great Lakes Commission convened a workshop to review the status of preventing aquatic invasive species introduction and spread through ballast water discharge. The workshop provided an opportunity for the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence community – including representatives of federal, state and provincial agencies, industry, ports, researchers, environmental groups and other stakeholders – to come together, share information and develop a common base of understanding of contemporary conditions – and associated challenges and opportunities – of ballast water management. The workshop included presentations and discussion on the current regulatory framework, the status of treatment technology, the state of the science, and stakeholder perspectives on ballast water management in the U.S. and Canada.

The GLC prepared a proceedings document to summarize the workshop. Two briefing papers were also developed to provide background information for workshop participants, including a summary of the status of ballast water management regulations in the region (prepared by the GLC and included in the meeting briefing book), and a summary of the biological efficacy testing and certification of ballast water management systems for use in the U.S. and Canada (prepared by the Great Ships Initiative). In addition, a GIS-based story map was developed to simulate a real ship’s voyage and the ballast water management compliance steps it would implement along the way.

Over the last decade, government agencies, industry and independent groups have made considerable progress on ballast water management to prevent the introduction and spread of aquatic invasive species. Today, there is less risk of new invasive species being introduced in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River region than ever before. While this is good progress, there are outstanding issues to resolve to ensure regional resources are protected while enabling commercial navigation to prosper.

Ballast water regulatory regimes are being implemented at the international, national and state levels. Agencies are adopting numeric standards for the concentration of living organisms in ballast water discharge and it is expected that, initially, vessel owners will comply with these requirements by installing treatment technology. These numeric standards are derived from the 2004 International Maritime Organization (IMO) adopted the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments. The Convention will enter into force on September 8, 2017. Canada ratified the IMO convention in 2010 and is now developing implementing regulations. Although the U.S. is not likely to ratify the IMO Convention, both U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) discharge rules and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) 2013 Vessel General Permit (VGP) use the IMO discharge standards as the basis of their respective regulatory regimes. Great Lakes states have enacted individual laws and requirements on the VGP that carry forward and maintain numeric discharges standards consistent with IMO, but sometimes vary in other specific ways from the federal requirements.

Vendors of treatment technology for ocean-going ships are working hard to bring products to market that comply with the IMO standard, with the U.S. granting the first type approval to a treatment system on December 2, 2016. Due to the prior absence of technology that meets U.S. type approval, the Coast Guard has granted compliance extensions and accepted the use of Alternate Management Systems approved by foreign administrations. Facilities like the Great Ships Initiative (GSI) in Superior, Wisconsin, are actively working with vendors to test technologies per U.S. type approval standards. These facilities are also making progress in advancing scientific understanding of the peculiarities of freshwater conditions in the Great Lakes, differences between actual environmental conditions and mandated type approval process conditions, and determining whether products will be sufficient to protect the lakes from future invasions.

For More Information

Erika Jensen
Program Manager
Great Lakes Commission
[email protected]

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