US Federal Maritime Commission investigates Canadian ballast water regulations

The US Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) has voted unanimously to accept a petition filed by the Lake Carriers’ Association (LCA) that alleges the ballast water regulations that have been proposed by the Government of Canada will discriminate against the US flag vessel operators.

The FMC voted to undertake an investigation of the specific allegations set forth in the LCA petition, to gather information and to solicit public comments. The investigation will examine “the detriment and harm to the US flag fleet” resulting from the proposed regulations. GMC said that “the commission has long been concerned about the proposed Canadian ballast water regulations and the effect it will have on the US flag Laker fleet. These concerns have been expressed to Transport Canada in meetings and phone conferences for several years”, adding that “by accepting the LCA petition and initiating the investigation, the commission is not making a current determination that the proposed Transport Canada regulations are discriminatory; however, if the LCA petition allegations are substantiated through the commission investigation, then the commission will be in position to act expeditiously”.

If the FMC does conclude that the Canadian regulations would result in conditions unfavourable to US shipping, then the FMC would be able to impose fines on vessels calling at US ports, prohibit vessel calls at US ports, and restrict cargos that may be carried between the US and Canada.

The Canadian rules have been introduced with the avowed intention of reducing the threat posed by invasive species. In 2014 a study found that Great Lakes vessels posed a high risk of spreading invasive species to new areas. Transport Canada recently proposed that Great Lakes ballast water regulations that would apply to domestic and foreign vessels, including those operating in the Great Lakes Basin. Canada wants vessels on the Great Lakes to treat ballast water by September 8th 2024.

The LCA has claimed that there was no treatment system that could work on lakers, so a transit standard would potentially ban US flag lakers from Canadian waters. LCA ‘s 13 member companies operate 46 US-flag self-propelled vessels and tug/barge units.