Statement on Ballast Water Provisions in National Defense Authorization Act Passed by U.S. House of Representatives

American Great Lakes Ports Association / Great Lakes Maritime Task Force / Lake Carriers’ Association

May 20, 2016 - The Great Lakes shipping community is praising inclusion of the provisions of the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act (VIDA) in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) passed by the House of Representatives on May 18.  VIDA would finally establish a nationwide standard for ballast water discharges and end the patchwork of differing and potentially conflicting ballast water regulations enforced by a multitude of Federal and State agencies.  In the near term, the U.S. Coast Guard’s current ballast water discharge standard would be the national standard. 

While the Great Lakes shipping community agrees that aquatic non-indigenous species (ANS) have wrought significant damage in the Great Lakes and other U.S. waters, this was due to the absence of a mandatory ballast water discharge standard, not any weakness in the current U.S. Coast Guard standard.  Contrary to the assertions of several environmental groups, that standard, which is the same as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standard, is not “ineffective.”  This standard is just beginning to be implemented due to delays in certifying that current technology actually meets it.

For the future, VIDA integrates best available technologies, best management practices, and strict oversight to set a national approach to the prevention and control of ANS from entering and spreading in U.S. waters through ballast water transport and discharge.  Contrary to the assertions of several environmental groups, VIDA establishes an inclusive review process to set more stringent future discharge standards at regular intervals as ballast water treatment technologies become more effective.  The bottom line is that VIDA will work.

Finally, some have complained about the inclusion of VIDA in the NDAA.  It is almost comical to hear groups that have impeded military training and readiness on many fronts whine about how the NDAA should protect the homeland.  The NDAA routinely includes maritime legislation, the U.S. maritime industry is an essential element of national security, and implementing a national ballast water discharge standard is consistent with national security.

Steve Fisher, Executive Director of the American Great Lakes Ports Association, called inclusion of the VIDA provisions in the NDAA another positive development in the effort to end ballast water introductions of ANS into the Great Lakes and other U.S. waters.  “VIDA incorporates the highest ballast water discharge standard achievable today and requires more stringent discharge standards at regular intervals in the future as treatment technology becomes more effective.  It also puts the U.S. Coast Guard, the Federal agency most knowledgeable of commercial vessel equipment and responsible for environmental enforcement in United States navigable waters, at the regulatory forefront, while providing ample opportunity for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the states to support the Coast Guard’s development of future ballast water discharge regulations.”

Tom Curelli, President of Great Lakes Maritime Task Force, and Vice President of Engineering at Fraser Shipyards, also hailed inclusion of the VIDA provisions in the NDAA.  Curelli noted that the Lakes have not seen the introduction of any new non-indigenous species since 2006 when ocean-going vessels were first required to exchange ballast water prior to entering the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence River system, and VIDA would retain this requirement.  Nor have any ANS been spread within the Great Lakes since then as noted by both US and Canadian researchers.  “The VIDA provisions are that important next step in safeguarding the Lakes.  They end the confusion that has impeded the development and installation of ballast water treatment systems on vessels that have the potential to introduce aquatic nuisance species into the Great Lakes.”

The U.S.-flag Great Lakes fleet has enthusiastically endorsed VIDA.  “The Lake Carriers’ Association actually developed the first ballast water management program in North America back in 1993,” said James H.I. Weakley, President of Lake Carriers’ Association.  “No one’s desire to protect the Great Lakes environment is stronger than ours and we will continue to employ the best management practices for ballast water that have proven so effective for our vessels.  Lake Carriers’ members are working with scientists and engineers right now to assess and develop protection and treatment options capable of handling the unique requirements of the Great Lakes.  Maritime shipping is the most efficient means of transporting goods with the smallest environmental footprint.  We support passage of the VIDA provisions and join with our partners on the Great Lakes and urge the Senate to accept the House provisions concerning ballast water regulation when the NDAA conference is held. The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway deserve the protections that VIDA promises.”

For more information, contact:

American Great Lakes Ports Assn.
Steve Fisher
Executive Director
(202) 625-2102

Great Lakes Maritime Task Force
Glen Nekvasil
Secretary
(440) 333-9996

Lake Carriers’ Association
James H.I. Weakley
President
(440) 333-9995

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