Apr 04, 2013

EPA Finalizes Vessel General Permit

Action will help protect U.S. water quality and reduce risk of invasive species

EPA Vessel General Permit U.S. Water Quality Reduce Risk of Invasive Species

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a final vessel general permit regulating discharges from commercial vessels, including ballast water, to protect the nation’s waters from ship-borne pollutants and reduce invasive species in U.S. waters.

The final vessel general permit covers commercial vessels greater than 79 ft in length, excluding military and recreational vessels, and will replace the 2008 vessel general permit due to expire on Dec. 19, 2013.

This permit regulates 27 specific discharge categories, and will also provide improvements to the efficiency of the permit process, and clarify discharge requirements by the following:

  • Reduce the risks of introduction of invasive species. The permit includes a more stringent numeric discharge standard limiting the release of non-indigenous invasive species in ballast water. The permit also contains additional environmental protection for the Great Lakes, which have suffered disproportionate impacts from invasive species, aligning federal standards with many Great Lakes states by requiring certain vessels to take additional precautions to reduce the risk of introducing new invasive species to U.S. waters.
  • Reduce administrative burden for vessel owners and operators. The permit will eliminate duplicative reporting requirements, expand electronic recordkeeping opportunities and reduce self-inspection frequency for vessels that are out of service for extended periods.

The new discharge standards are supported by independent studies by EPA’s science advisory board and the National Research Council, and are consistent with those contained in the International Maritime Organization’s 2004 Ballast Water Convention. EPA is issuing the permit in advance of the current permit's expiration to provide the regulated community time and flexibility to come into compliance with the new requirements.

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