Celebrations at Optimarin’s Norway headquarters greeted the news that their Ballast Water Treatment system is the first the get approval from the USCG. Hopes are now that this long-awaited approval will be followed by approvals for other manufacturers, and the beginning of a busy period for yards.

Although the IMO has already approved more than 60 systems, only 10 months remain before the implementation date of BWT regulations. Owners have largely been holding back to make sure that systems they install will also be approved for the US.

Estimates of the number of vessels worldwide which will need to install systems at their first Special Survey following the implementation deadline range from 35,000 to 120,000. Even the lowest estimates will stretch the capacity of yards to fulfil the work, and of manufacturers to produce the equipment. There are only about 250 yards worldwide capable of doing the work, meaning an average of 23 installations per yard, per year, over the course of the next 6 years – one every 16 days.

The Optimarin Ballast System is a filtration/ultraviolet ballast water management system with treatment capacities ranging from 167m3/h to 3000m3/h that does not use nor generate chemicals in its process. It is purely based on filtration as pre-treatment and high doses of UV irradiation for inactivation of marine organisms.

The announcement, on USCG’s Blog, reads:

Today, the Coast Guard Marine Safety Center issued the first U.S. Coast Guard Ballast Water Management System Type Approval Certificate to Norwegian manufacturer Optimarin AS after a detailed review of the type approval application determined the system met the requirements of 46 CFR 162.060. The Optimarin Ballast System is a filtration/ultraviolet ballast water management system with treatment capacities ranging from 167m3/h to 3000m3/h.

“Today’s decision marks a significant milestone for the maritime industry in addressing the threat posed by invasive species,” stated Capt. John Mauger, commanding officer of the Marine Safety Center. “The U.S. Coast Guard’s testing requirements set strong standards for the performance and validation of ballast water management systems under a range of conditions. The issuance of the type approval certificate documents the ability of the Optimarin Ballast System to meet the U.S. Coast Guard’s standards.”

A copy of the certificate may be obtained by contacting the manufacturer.

The Marine Safety Center continues to review type approval applications from other BWMS manufacturers. Each type approval application includes thousands of pages of data and analysis to document compliance with the comprehensive land-based and shipboard testing requirements. In addition, the applications include detailed descriptions of materials, evaluations of component suitability for the maritime environment, and operating manuals. The Marine Safety Center remains in constant communications with the manufacturers and the Independent Laboratories to keep them apprised of the status of our review.

“While this is a significant milestone, it is the first of multiple system approvals that are needed to mitigate the threat of harmful aquatic invasive species,” said Rear Adm. Paul Thomas, assistant commandant for prevention policy. “One size does not fit all, so we will continue to evaluate other systems submitted by multiple manufactures with the intent to provide options that meet shipping’s varying needs.”

In conjunction with the type approval certification, the Coast Guard released Marine Safety Information Bulletin 14-16 which provides answers to frequently asked questions concerning:

The extension program;
Vessel compliance dates; and
Use of Alternate Management Systems (AMS).

U.S. regulations allow the Coast Guard to grant an extension to a vessel’s compliance date if the master, owner, operator, agent or person in charge (collectively “owner/operator”) documents that, despite all efforts, compliance with one of the approved ballast water management methods, including installation of a Coast Guard type-approved BWMS, is not possible. Now that a type-approved BWMS is available, any owner/operator requesting an extension must provide the Coast Guard with an explicit statement supported by documentary evidence (e.g., a delay in commercial availability) that installation of the type approved system is not possible for purposes of compliance with the regulatory implementation schedule.

While this certification provides vessel owners and operators with a type-approved system to meet the ballast water discharge standard, there are other ways that vessels can comply with U.S. ballast water management regulations. These include:

Temporarily use of a foreign type-approved BWMS that has been accepted by the Coast Guard as an alternate management system (AMS) (5-year limitation) if installed in compliance with 33 CFR Part 151
Use of ballast water obtained exclusively from a U.S. public water system
Discharge of ballast water to a reception facility
No discharge of unmanaged ballast water inside 12 nm

The Coast Guard’s ballast water portal provides information on BWM compliance date extensions. The site also provides access to regulations, policy letters, informational bulletins, and extension application status to help the maritime industry comply with the BWM requirements.