Ballast Water - Discussions with USCG on Current Extension Policy


This is an extract of a report supplied by the Chamber of Shipping of America (CSA) with the intention of keeping BIMCO members appraised of legislative developments in the US affecting international shipping. The full CSA report is also provided. 

A small group of interested parties including CSA, have engaged USCG in discussions on current issues associated with the current USCG extension policy relating to compliance dates with the US ballast water regulations.  As most know, the US has issued type approvals to 9 systems with an additional 20 systems in the queue for testing and review by USCG.  As more systems become available, it will become increasingly more difficult for the USCG to justify an extension unless sufficient detailed information (including timelines and plans for purchase and installation) is provided to the USCG in an extension request package.  CSA appreciates the willingness of the USCG to discuss these issues with an aim to resolution in a mutually acceptable manner taking into account the limited flexibility the USCG has in granting these extensions.

The points discussed with USCG are as follows:

Overview:  The maritime industry is committed to working with the USCG and other governments to ensure compliance with the US ballast water regulations and the IMO Convention requirements.  We also recognize the need for a transition period as new ballast water management systems (BWMS) come on line, receive type approvals and are installed on vessels.  It is in the best interests of the regulators and the regulated community to ensure that systems with US/IMO type approvals and systems that are in the queue to receive a US/IMO type approvals actually perform as tested once installed on board vessels.  The USCG, recognizing the need for an orderly transition, created the extension and AMS acceptance programs to allow vessel owners to intelligently and selectively evaluate BWMSs to ensure they are fit for purpose and actually meet the regulatory requirements in real world operation.

To further facilitate the discussion between industry and the USCG, we would like to discuss some specific concepts and aspects of the US ballast water regulations, specifically implementation issues, with an aim to further the orderly transition to the installation and use of compliant BWMSs.  In no way do these issues suggest that leeway should be given to vessel owners who may have used these programs to simply delay system installations, but rather these issues are presented in light of the many vessel owners who have installed AMS systems and/or who are pursuing the purchase and installation of systems that have received type approvals, are in the queue to receive US type approvals, or in the process of USCG type approval testing.

  • The cost benefit analysis conducted prior to finalization of the US ballast water regulations assumed that system installations would occur during scheduled drydockings.  Recent decisions on extensions by the USCG have significantly limited their duration and make the assumption that systems can be installed without taking a vessel out of service or will be installed during an unscheduled drydocking expressly for the purpose of ballast water system installation.  As to the former, previous attempts to install without taking a vessel out of service has resulted in a number of post-installation problems that ultimately result in poorly operating systems, which may not result in compliant discharges.  As to the latter, basing extension duration on a requirement to conduct an unscheduled drydocking for ballast water system installation was not contemplated during the rulemaking and should not be required now due to the excessive cost associated with out of service time and drydocking costs, including commercial disruptions of long-term charter arrangements and other contractual obligations.
  • Drydockings are needed for most BWMS installations due to safety requirements, the need for engineering retrofits, including piping, and other operational considerations (e.g., post installation testing, need for cleaning of ballast water tanks prior to testing, crew training, and the like).  We are aware of a number of situations where vessel owners actually tried to conduct the installation while the vessel was in service.  None of the outcomes were favorable and none were able to be completed in the time frame/schedule as predicted by the manufacturer.  While the system itself may be able to be installed while the vessel is in service, additional piping requirements, operational testing and crew training cannot be completed until the system itself is integrated into the existing piping systems on board, which of course, are always in use, while the vessel is in service.
  • The current 12-month extension limitation with few coincidental exceptions, does not align with survey and scheduled drydocking periods.  As noted above, installation of BWMSs is best done in the drydock.  Given that the cost benefit analysis did not contemplate installation during an unscheduled drydocking, which incurs additional cost associated with pulling the vessel out of service and possible breaches of charter/contractual obligations, specific extensions should align with a vessel’s next scheduled drydocking.
  • Drydocking slippages are common occurrences due to conditions outside the control of the shipowner.  Drydocking slippages may occur due to weather conditions, availability of the drydock, delays regarding ships in the drydock getting out of the drydock, other delays not attributable to the shipowner, delays in the completion of a particular voyage preceding the drydock, and the need for a vessel charterer to grant permission to proceed to the drydock and go out of service.  We note that the shipowner is required by the charterer to maintain compliance with all existing legal requirements, but class/flag are able to grant extensions to going into drydock not exceeding three months for good cause.  Drydocking slippages of less than three months should not reduce existing extensions and penalize shipowners for actions outside their control.  Taken a step further, it is recommended that revision of existing extensions due to drydocking slippage take into account the normal up to 90-day window allotted by Class, providing the USCG grants permission based on the above scenarios after presentation of relevant facts by the shipowner that such an extension is warranted.
  • Inconsistencies in extension request decisions continue to exist.  In some cases, separate extension requests, as required by USCG policy, have been filed for multiple ships in a given class in a fleet with virtually identical supporting information.  In these cases, some of the extension requests are granted, while others are denied or granted reduced extension periods with no explanation for the different results given the same supporting information.  With this in mind, there is clearly a need for a common set of criteria, interpreted the same way by those individuals that are reviewing the extension requests.  The industry would be willing to work with the extension review team to provide generic information on relevant criteria in making a fact based decision.
  • All of the current US type approved systems have limitations, e.g., holding time, service networks, and company history, that make more options necessary.  As the USCG is aware, there are a number of limitations issued in current type approvals that suggest the need for a wider selection of BWMSs.  While there may be several type approved systems which, on the surface, appear fit for purpose based on footprint, flow rates and availability, it is in the best interests of vessel safety and environmental protection that shipowners be provided the leeway to select the best option for their specific application and for shipowners to have the flexibility to use the same BWMSs fleetwide, rather than be possibly forced into a hodgepodge of different BWMSs.  As an example, some shipowners have requested extensions based on delay in procurement or pendency of US type approval of one treatment system, which does not require storage and handling of chemicals on board.   Approximately 20 systems are in the process of USCG type approval testing.  Many delays have been due to issues with the various independent laboratories and their testing facilities.
  • Currently there are 9 USCG type approved systems of which 5 have received amended type approvals in late 2017 and early 2018 and 4 have amended type approvals pending, which means that a significant percentage of the originally type approved systems have or will receive an amended type approval with different operating limitations.  A shipowner that has or is about to install a USCG type approved system must have the necessary time to evaluate and accommodate new operating limitations into their BWMS implementation strategy, including required design and installation components, as well as revision of the onboard operating procedures and updated crew training.  Extensions should take this into account.  In approximately 1-2 years, the needs for extensions should dramatically reduce to due an increase in USCG type approved BWMS options or need for compliance with the BWM Convention.  In light of the substantial capital investment involved with the selection/installation of a BWMS in an overall down shipping market and the significant compliance challenges and risks, the USCG exercising its reasonable discretion over the next 1-2 years, when good cause is shown, is a prudent way forward and consistent with the intent and purpose of the Presidential Executive Order on Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs.
  • Vessels which have installed AMS systems on board should be granted a suitable extension where the system receives US type approval albeit of a different version and/or operating restrictions.  Vessel owners that have expended significant resources on a particular AMS system installation should be granted an extension to provide sufficient time to upgrade the system consistent with the changed conditions in the US type approval, e.g., modification to system and/or new operating restrictions.


Download RELATED Documents

Peter Lundahl Rasmussen
By Peter Lundahl Rasmussen
in Copenhagen, DK


Access BIMCO's COVID-19 related articles and advice.

Read more

VPS Bunker Alerts

Veritas Petroleum Services (VPS) publish regular Bunker Alerts based entirely on fuel samples and have kindly permitted BIMCO’s Members to access this information.

The Bunker Alerts are not intended to be an evaluation of overall bunker quality in the port or area concerned, but usually highlight a specific parameter within the fuel which has raised a quality issue.

Latest piracy reports


Latest industry releasable threats



Contracts & Clauses

All of BIMCO's most widely used contracts and clauses as well as advice on managing charters and business partners.

Learn about your cargo

For general guidance and information on cargo-related queries.

More about cargo

BIMCO Publications

Want to buy or download a BIMCO publication? Use the link to get access to the ballast water management guide, the ship master’s security manual and many other publications.

About a new business partner

We can help members check new business partners. We also help to recover millions of USD (undisputed) funds every year.