Maritime & Trade Blog

US sees growing challenge to ballast equipment testing




This story originally published on Fairplay.IHS.com.

The ability of the US Coast Guard to monitor independent laboratories testing ballast water treatment systems for US type approval could be constrained by potential budget cuts at the agency.

Testifying before a subcommittee of the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee in the US House of Representatives on 3 May, Paul Thomas, the Coast Guard’s assistant commandant for prevention policy, acknowledged that if a scheme by the Trump administration to cut the agency’s budget by 14% is successful, oversight of the testing labs could be compromised.

“As always, our nation needs more Coast Guard, and that extends to all of our responsibilities,” Thomas asserted, explaining that his agency first certifies a laboratory so that it can be used as a testing facility, then visits the lab during the course of their testing work. “No doubt though, that as the number of independent labs increases and their workload increases, our ability to conduct the oversight that we’d like to is challenged by our lack of resources.”

To carry out its missions, the Coast Guard estimates it needs an approximate 4% increase annually in operations and maintenance funds, along with a USD2 billion investment annually for infrastructure funding.

“That amount would allow us to rebuild readiness across all our missions and fill the gaps, including oversight of independent labs," Thomas testified.

There are currently five main laboratories that are conducting testing for ballast water treatment systems for manufacturers planning to seek US type approval. Each one of those have from four to 10 sub-laboratories that assist in carrying out testing protocols. The five main laboratories are based in the US, UK, Norway, South Korea, and The Netherlands.

The US type-approval process requires the independent laboratory to oversee and report on a set of testing protocols to demonstrate compliance with the design and performance standards specified in the US regulations, which went into effect in June 2012. Once testing is complete, the vendor submits an application to the Coast Guard’s Marine Safety Center (MSC), which reviews the application for compliance. 

The MSC’s goal is to review and reply to each submission within 30 days. The MSC required additional information from the three ballast water systems that have been type approved so far, therefore final certification in each case took roughly 10 weeks. There are three applications currently under review.