Transport Canada ballast water regulations are criticized

Canada’s Chamber of Marine Commerce has criticized new ballast water regulations just released by Transport Canada. The CMC President and CEO Bruce Burrows, called them “a half-baked solution.”

The CMC has asserted that the new regulations unfairly targeted Canadian ship operators “who have spent billions of dollars on new fuel-efficient, eco-ships – while giving an extra six years for compliance to owners of older vessels, including those of virtually all US ships operating in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence inland waterway.”

The CMC said that the new regulations created “an unlevel playing field between Canadian and US domestic fleets (which operate virtually all older vessels) and discourages further investment in new, more fuel-efficient ships that produce significantly lower greenhouse gases.”

The Chamber said that the regulations correctly recognized that ships operating solely in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence waters had “unique technical and operating challenges and that more time is needed to find ballast water treatment systems that meet compliance requirements”.

The new regulations give those ships until 2030 to install systems. However, the CMC went on to say that “without any justification, the regulations have given ships built on or after 2009, operating in the same waterway, a compliance deadline of 2024, despite the absence of any suitable available technology that can ensure compliance by that date.”

Burrows said that this was “a very disappointing development that will risk jobs and stall economic recovery, while doing little to protect the environment”. He claimed that the regulations as they stood might actually impair rather than protect the environment, “as shipowners with newer ships will have to seek extensions or will be installing systems at great expense that don’t work. At the same time, the exorbitant and escalating costs of attempting to install systems will make new ships less competitive and completely undermine the Canadian government’s goals to reduce emissions and support the advancement of technology.”

Burrows claimed that, If new ships were forced to meet the 2024 deadline, extra costs would probably be passed on to Canadian manufacturing and agricultural customers, making them less competitive than their US counterparts. These use US domestic ships without systems on the same Great Lakes.

Burrows alleged that “the Canadian government is imposing a half-baked solution onto Canada’s ‘home town’ fleet that would add minimal environmental benefit while imposing a significant economic impact on the important Great Lakes – St. Lawrence trade corridor”.

The Chamber noted that there had been no new introductions of non-native invasive species in the Great Lakes (attributed to ships’ ballast water) reported since 2006. The Chamber also pointed out that neither Canadian nor US domestic vessels travelled overseas and posed no risk of introducing new invasive species.

The Chamber also said that the Canadian rules contradicted American rules in the bi-national waterway. The US Environmental Protection Agency recently decided that new ships that operate solely in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence, and which had been built after 2009, faced the exact same hurdles to install systems as older ships.

The EPA’s rationale is that due to vessel design, operating conditions such as water temperature and turbidity, trade patterns, voyage length and other issues, there are no current ballast water management systems that are practical or suitable for Great Lakes-St. Lawrence vessels.

“Accordingly, the reasons for the pre- and post-2009 distinction drawn by the Canadian government for purposes of an earlier (2024) compliance date, without any proven evidence in support of it, remain completely irrational and puzzling in the circumstances”, the Chamber said.

The Chamber said that the amendments also violated several policy objectives in its enabling legislation, the Canada Shipping Act.