US regulations affecting your ships - get the July update!


This is the latest in a series of reports supplied by the Chamber of Shipping of America (CSA) with the intention of keeping BIMCO members appraised of legislative developments in the US affecting international shipping. BIMCO highlights only the relevant developments that would impact members. The full CSA July report is also provided. 

US Ballast Water Management Program – new documents released by US Coast Guard

As reported in our BIMCO news of 27 July, the US Coast Guard (USCG) released three documents summarising the requirements of the US ballast water management (BWM) regime and included details on where the US programme differs from the IMO requirements. 

CSA has a quick review of the 2nd and 3rd documents which are PowerPoint presentations updated by USCG for presentations at various conferences. CSA noted that on page five of the document entitled “US Ballast Water Regulations Program update ”, the third primary bullet states “Vessels with AMS (alternative management system) will not receive new or supplemental extensions. Those vessels are expected to use the AMS.” CSA and others have problems with this decision given that a number of installed AMS systems are not performing adequately and in these cases, if this policy decision is to be practically applied, every vessel inbound for a US port with an inoperable or sub operable AMS system must, for each voyage, contact the captain of the port (COTP), advise that the system is not operable and then find themselves at the mercy of the COTP as to what contingency measure will be applied to that vessel.

CSA believes that it would be far more practical and environmentally protective to continue to issue extensions to vessels in this scenario which would (1) require a compliant deep ocean exchange be executed (2) preclude the need for COTP decisions on contingency measures for each port visit and (3) minimise the risk of invasions if less protective contingency measures are imposed.  CSA will continue to pursue a practical resolution to this issue and will advise in a timely manner of any changes in policy.

New ECDIS Standards Install / Deadline Issues

On 7 June 2017, BIMCO informed members of the new “Electronic Chart Display and Information System” (ECDIS) standards, where the deadline for installation is 31 August 2017.
In this regard, feedback from CSA members has ranged from members having spent excessive unnecessary costs, had technical challenges, connectivity problems to administrative headaches, most of which still are unresolved. CSA members feel this is mainly due to the ECDIS manufacturer's delay in receiving type approval, unavailability of technicians to perform upgrades, manufacturer technician’s difficulty installing the software on various ships, which then led to lab troubleshooting, system patches and testing with mixed success and additional cost. Operators were pushed by certain manufacturers to purchase a full hardware and software upgrade and buy their charts. Though some members acted in good faith and started these upgrades early, they have stated they may not meet the deadline due to circumstances beyond their control. It is unlikely that the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) will extend the deadline, though the International Chamber of Shipping has requested so.

USCG has stated that there is no requirement to re-submit an ECDIS for type-approval if a new standard is released during the period of validity, as long as the update does not fall under the provisions stated on the type-approval letter.

Regulatory reform – NOAA request for comments

As members recall, the Trump administration has issued Executive Order 13777, entitled “Enforcing the Regulatory Reform Agenda”, which, among other things, requires all executive branch agencies including USCG and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), to conduct a review of existing regulations that may be appropriate for repeal, replacement, or modification.

The USCG and US EPA have already conducted their rounds asking for comments. Now the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Adminstration (NOAA) has published such a request in the July 7 2017 Federal Register. In this regard, CSA intends to submit comments with a focus on the current regulations relating to speed restrictions to minimise ship strikes of whales off the US East Coast. It is anticipated that CSA comments will urge NOAA to overturn the current regulations - which are based on seasonal management areas (where whales were last year)- and refocus the speed restriction requirements on dynamic management areas (where whales are in real time). CSA will also suggest that the relationship between speed restrictions and whale strikes (versus fatal whale strikes) have been misinterpreted and applied as the basis of the current regulations.

Customs Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) re-authorisation

BIMCO members who participate in the C-TPAT arrangement should be aware the scheme is being re-authorised in the US. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) work with C-TPAT applicants and participants in protecting the supply chain, identifying security gaps and implementation of certain security measures and best practices. This re-authorisation will result in further benefits for participating members such as shorter wait times and fewer inspections at ports.


McCain Jones Act Repeal Bill

Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) has again introduced a bill (S 1561) entitled “Open America’s Waters Act of 2017” which would repeal the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, more commonly known as the Jones Act. As noted previously, CSA supports the Jones Act as it currently stands and does not support a reopening of the statute either for purposes of strengthening or weakening its current provisions. Introduction of this bill has understandably again rallied the maritime labour unions and US flag operators against this proposition. The only wild card in the equation at this time is the position of the Trump administration (pro-trade but also pro-US jobs) although it is expected that the president’s Secretary of Transportation, Elaine Chao, who is a friend of the US marine transportation industry, would not be in favour of S 1561.  The bill has been referred to the Senate Commerce Committee with no further action or hearings scheduled as at the time of this reporting.

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