Issues & Advocacy

Vessel Discharges

In December 2018, the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act was signed into law as part of the Frank LoBiondo Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2018, representing a landmark achievement in an intensive, years-long, AWO-led coalition advocacy effort to reform a broken system of overlapping and conflicting federal and state regulations for ballast water and other vessel discharges. VIDA gives vessel operators and crewmembers the certainty of a nationally consistent regulatory system while ensuring high standards of environmental protection.
As required by VIDA, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Coast Guard are working together under the Clean Water Act to jointly set, implement and enforce new standards for ballast water and other discharges incidental to normal vessel operation, in consultation with the states. AWO is working closely with EPA and the Coast Guard, with the guidance of our Vessel Discharges Working Group, to ensure that the new standards reflect the recommendations of tugboat, towboat and barge operators.
Once new regulations are in effect, EPA and the Coast Guard’s existing regulations will be repealed and state regulations that exceed the federal standards, or that cannot be met concurrently with them, will be preempted. Until then, EPA’s Vessel General Permit – a set of incidental discharge management requirements for commercial vessels of 79 feet or more in length – and the Coast Guard’s ballast water management requirements for commercial vessels equipped with ballast tanks will remain in effect. AWO is committed to facilitating member compliance with current requirements and has developed compliance tools for that purpose, including the VGP Recommended Practice Guide and VGP sample forms.
To join the Vessel Discharges Working Group, please contact John Young.