Until such time as technological advances enable compliance with California’s stringent ballast water discharge performance standards, vessels discharging ballast water into Californian waters must use a ballast water treatment system that has been approved by the US Coast Guard.
11 NOV 2021
The state of California is known for its enforcement of stringent environmental regulations, many of which affect visiting ships. This year, the State has introduced a new at-berth emission regulation that aims to further reduce the public’s exposure to air pollution generated by vessels berthed at its busiest ports, and greatly enhanced the criminal penalties for oil spill related offences in its waters.
Under its Marine Invasive Species Program (MISP), California has established biofouling management and ballast water discharge standards that are more stringent than those enforced under the US federal regulations and IMO’s international maritime conventions. However, California has yet to implement its ballast water discharge performance standards - primarily because the standards are still technically unachievable.
It is also worth noting that, once fully implemented, the new Vessel Incidental Discharge Act (VIDA) may prevent State authorities from implementing State-specific management requirements or standards for vessel discharges, including ballast water, that are stricter than the federal standards. For now, when calling at ports in the US or sailing through US waters, it is always important to bear in mind that State laws may be in force in addition to US federal law and that State laws can be more stringent than those set by the national government and can carry different penalties.
California’s new ballast water management requirements
As a temporary measure until technological advances enable compliance with the State’s more stringent ballast water discharge performance standards, the California State Lands Commission (SLC) has aligned its discharge requirements for vessels arriving at California ports with those set by the US Coast Guard (USCG). The SLC has jurisdiction over vessels that are 300 gross registered tons and above that carry or are capable of carrying ballast water.
California’s ballast water management requirements are stipulated under Article 4.7 of the California Code of Regulations and the amended Article 4.7, which becomes effective on 1 January 2022, includes the following main changes:
Under the amended Article 4.7, all eligible vessels that are discharging ballast water in California will be required to use one of the following methods to comply:
The CLSC’s Article 4.7 information sheet further clarifies that any extensions to a vessel’s compliance date granted by the USCG will be equally accepted under the Californian ballast water regulations. Under the federal ballast water regulations, the USCG accepts ballast water exchange as an accepted ballast water management method until a vessel reaches its compliance date under the schedule in 33 CFR 151.2035(b), or as granted by an extension under 33 CFR 151.2036. After a vessel’s compliance date, the vessel will be required to use one of the acceptable methods listed above.
Vessels visiting California ports must ensure that their ballast water treatment system is operated in accordance with the design limitations stipulated by the manufacturer, or set forth in the USCG approval documents, and must maintain the following records onboard:
Upon request, vessels must also ensure that SLC staff are provided access to ballast water tanks and sampling ports, unless access is restricted due to safety concerns.
MISP fee and reporting reminder
We also take this opportunity to remind vessel operators that the SLC requires eligible vessels to:
Additional information about California’s ballast water and biofouling management regulations, including an overview of vessel best management practices to prevent the uptake and release of invasive aquatic species, can be found on the MISP website.