Vessels which are greater than or equal to 300 gross registered tons or have the capacity to hold or discharge more than 8 cubic meters of ballast water must be submitted to the EPA.
If your vessel is greater than or equal to 300 gross registered tons or has the capacity to hold or discharge more than 8 cubic meters of ballast water and operates (or will operate) on the navigable waters of the United States, then you must submit to the EPA, no later than 19 September 2009, a Notice of Intent (NOI) relating to continued discharges incidental to the normal operation of the vessel. Penalties for failure to submit a timely NOI can be onerous.
What is it all about?
The National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) is a system under the US environmental protection rules (Clean Water Act) to minimize pollution into US territorial waters (3nm). To implement this for shipping, a document called Vessel General Permit (VGP) has all the requirements laid out. These requirements are additional to international environmental rules such as MARPOL. The VGP establishes technology based effluent limits for all vessels and for 26 specific discharges incidental to the normal operation of a vessels. In addition to these discharges and some vessel specific requirements, extensive requirements are included for inspections, monitoring, reporting and recordkeeping. Note that for most companies the VGP will require a detailed review of environmental protection systems, crew training and recordkeeping. The rules have been in force since the beginning of 2009. It should be noted that any non-compliance with the VGP constitutes a violation of the US environmental rules and may lead to prosecution.
Which vessels are included?
In general, the VGP will apply to any commercial, non-fishing vessel regardless of flag trading within 3 nm of the US baseline. While each vessel will not be required to obtain an individual permit, each vessel will be required to file a Notice of Intent to be covered and commit to meeting the discharge limitations included in the general permit for the specific discharges.
Vessels of 300 gross tons and greater or vessels which have the capacity to hold/discharge more than 8 cubic meters of ballast water must submit a Notice of Intent (NOI). For vessels filing original NOIs you must allow 30 days processing time before the vessel will be deemed ?covered? by the general permit. Recommended submission method is via EPA"s eNOI system at and must be filed at least 30 days prior to the vessel"s first entry into US waters. The initial permits will be valid for 5 years.
Failure to timely file an NOI will result in non-coverage of discharges from the vessel under the permit and violations of the Clean Water Act, regardless of whether the vessel discharges were in compliance with the substantive permit requirements, even if the NOI has been filed but not yet processed by EPA (30 day processing period noted above).
BIMCO is working on developing a guide describing the new rules and what to be aware of seen from the seafarers side. The guide is being prepared to help the ship to perform its duties in a way that fully comply with regulations in US.