U.S. Coast Guard Ballast Water Management Rules

On March 23, 2012 the United States Coast Guard (USCG) published their “Standards for Living Organisms in Ships’ Ballast Water Discharged in US Waters”. The ships’ ballast water discharge regulations are contained in Title 33 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Part 151. The requirements for approval of ballast water treatment equipment are contained in Title 46 CFR, Part 162. The rule becomes U.S. Federal law June 21, 2012. The following provides a summary of this new U.S. law.


  • The biological discharge standards are identical to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) Ballast Water Convention’s D-2 standard.

  • The implementation schedule is shown in the table below:


Vessel CategoryBallast Water CapacityDate ConstructedVessel’s Compliance Date
New VesselsAllOn or after December 1, 2013On delivery
Existing VesselsLess than 1,500 m3Before December 1, 2013First Scheduled Drydocking after  January 1, 2016
 1,500 – 5,000 m3Before December 1, 2013First Scheduled Drydocking after  January 1, 2014
 Greater than 5,000 m3Before December 1, 2013First Scheduled Drydocking after  January 1, 2016


  • Date Constructed means a stage of construction when (1) the keel of a vessel is laid; (2) construction identifiable with the specific vessel begins; (3) assembly of the vessel has commenced and comprises at least 50 tons or 1 percent of the estimated mass of all structural material, whichever is less; or (4) the vessel undergoes a major conversion.

  • The rule applies to vessels, both U.S. flagged and foreign, that are currently required to conduct ballast water exchange, and seagoing vessels above 3,000 gross tons ITC that transit between USCG Captain of the Port (COTP) Zones.

  • Vessels entering the Great Lakes or the Hudson River are required to perform ballast water exchange and also to treat ballast water using a USCG-approved ballast water management system (BWMS) such that the discharge standards are met.

  • The USCG rule does not eliminate the possibility that U.S. States will implement stricter ballast water discharge standards for vessels trading to ports within those States.

  • Title 46 CFR Part 162.060-12 provides the requirements for submittal of data and information from Type Approval testing by a foreign administration for the purpose of approval by the USCG. Laboratories and test facilities used for Type Approval by a foreign administration “must have met the requirements of 46 CFR 159.010-3 and 159.010-5(a) at the time of such work”.

  • BWMS that make use of an active substance can apply for Type Approval from the USCG only after the active substance is authorized for use as a pesticide by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the U.S. Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).

  • For equipment installed prior to the implementation date for a particular vessel, the USCG may issue a temporary 5-year certificate for Alternative Management Systems (AMS) to foreign Type Approved equipment that can demonstrate equivalent performance with ballast water exchange. Once the USCG issues a Type Approval certificate, AMS certification will no longer be possible for vessels for which the USCG Type Approved system is deemed suitable.


    U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Vessel General Permit (VGP)

    On November 30th 2011, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its draft Vessel General Permit (VGP). The complete VGP Draft and VGP Factsheet can be downloaded from the EPA website at:

    The new VGP includes specific BWT technology review and approval criteria. Listed below are some important details:

    • Effective December 19, 2013, in accordance with VGP Section “Vessel owner/operators utilizing a ballast water treatment system (BWTS) must use a system which has been shown to be effective by testing in accordance with the EPA-ETV protocol for the verification of ballast water treatment technology conducted by an independent third party laboratory, test facility or test organization.” Please refer to Page 27, VGP Draft.

    • The new VGP lists five BWT technologies that have been accepted by the U.S. Government as having demonstrated the ability to meet the IMO D-2 discharge standard in accordance with EPA’s review criteria. Please refer to Page 78, VGP Factsheet.

    •   The EPA technology list includes:
          · Deoxygenation + cavitation
          · Filtration + chlorine dioxide
          · Filtration + UV
          · Filtration + UV+TiO2
          · Filtration + electro-chlorination
    • The EPA’s Science Advisory Board (SAB) evaluated virtually all available BWT technologies, resulting in selection of the five technologies listed above. Please refer to Table 4.1, SAB Report for the complete list of reviewed technologies. Those technologies not listed on Table 4.1 have not been demonstrated to meet the IMO D-2 discharge standard in accordance with EPA review criteria.

    • The VGP technology list includes deoxygenation and cavitation, which is N.E.I.’s patented Venturi Oxygen Stripping™ (VOS) System. The VOS System has fully satisfied EPA VGP review criteria and has been demonstrated to meet the IMO D-2 discharge standard. No further testing or review of the VOS System will be necessary by the U.S. Government.
    • Required treatment is identical to IMO D-2 discharge standard. Please refer to Page 26, VGP Draft.

    • The Phase-in Schedule is also identical to the IMO Convention. Please refer to Page 35, VGP Draft. Please note: All vessels starting construction after January 1, 2012 will have to treat ballast water using a BWTS approved by U.S. Government.

    • The draft VGP began a 75-day public comment period on November 30th. Following review and consideration of public comments, the EPA intends to publish the final VGP by December 2012, twelve months prior to entering into force on December 19, 2013.

      International Maritime Organization (IMO)

      In 2004, the Member Nations of the IMO adopted the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ship's Ballast Water and Sediments. Read full text of the Convention >>

      References to the requirements for management of ballast tank sediments are made in several locations throughout the text of the Convention. Read summary of the sediment management requirement >>

      Regulation B-3

      Regulation B-3 of the Convention describes the schedule for the implementation of the Convention.
      View text of Regulation B-3 >>

      Regulation D-2

      Regulation D-2 of the Convention describes the discharge (or treatment) standards for ballast water.
      View the text of Regulation D-2

      Regulation D-3

      On the same page of the Convention, Regulation D-3 describes the procedure for approval of Ballast Water Management Systems used to comply with the Convention. View the text explanation of these procedures from the 2008 Lloyds Register Ballast Water Treatment Technology Handbook >>

      Specifically, Regulation D-3 of the Convention refers to Guidelines developed by the Organization (the IMO).
      Read Revised Guidelines for Approval of Ballast Water Management Systems (G8) >>

      There is an additional Guideline for ballast water management systems that make use of active substances:
      Read Revised Procedure for Approval of Ballast Water Management Systems that Make Use of Active
      Substances (G9) >>

      Please note that Section 1.4 of the G9 Guidelines states:

      1.4 This procedure is not intended for the evaluation of the efficacy of Active Substances. The efficacy of ballast water management systems that make use of Active Substances should be evaluated in accordance with the Guidelines for approval of ballast water management systems (G8).

      IMO Regulation Timeline