A fee increase has been proposed for ships entering California ports. The fee will be collected by the State Lands Commission for the California Ballast Water Program. This Program, managed by the State Lands Commission, has been in existence for 13 years since the passage of the California Marine Invasive Species Act. The current fee is $850 with a proposed increase to $1,000 per ship call. The 45 day public comment period for this fee increase started with a public notice on September 23, 2016 and will end on November 7, 2016.
A 2007 report authored by the State Lands Commission concluded that “Vessels that do not discharge any ballast water within the state pose no risk for NIS introductions through the vector (ship), and retention (of ballast water) is currently the most protective “management” available. Since reporting requirements were implemented in 2000, the annual percentage of vessels discharging ballast water has steadily decreased to an overall average of 22%.” If vessels that do not discharge any ballast water into state waters pose no risk, why should they then be required to pay a fee, especially such a sizeable one, to the State Lands Commission?
Dr. Andrew N. Cohen, Director, Center for Research on Aquatic Bioinvasions, has been outspoken about the need for shoreside ballast water treatment systems. He concluded that shoreside treatment is the only true way to fully comply with the California standards. Given that the California standards cannot be met by any shipboard technology available today, Dr. Cohen is likely correct. He encouraged the State Lands Commission to contract out a study on the feasibility of shoreside ballast water treatment. This study should be completed in the very near future. The drawback to ballast water treatment systems located ashore is that ballast water would either need to be piped to a central location for treatment, or each terminal would need to provide a ballast water treatment facility. This would shift the economic impact from shipowners to ports or terminal operators. From an environmental standpoint, it could also take many years to develop and install shoreside treatment plants and the piping that would be needed. Plants would have to be sited and Environmental Impact Reports approved prior to construction of treatment plants. In the interim, we would continue to have untreated ballast water discharged into our bays and harbors.
In a U.S. Coast Guard blog
, written by Rear Admiral Paul Thomas, he discusses the G-8 Guidelines as they relate to type-approval of ballast water management systems (BWMS). Rear Admiral Thomas states that the main differences between the IMO regulations and the USCG regulations are the type-approval process and the testing requirements. “(The IMO) non-mandatory guidelines are open to wide interpretation by flag administrations because the guidelines do not specify that type-approval testing should be conducted by an organization independent of the manufacturer. U.S. type-approval testing procedures are mandatory and specify testing that is independent from manufacturers. Our procedures are also very detailed and require more testing than foreign type-approval procedures.”
The IMO and the USCG seem to be making some headway toward a solution to the global problem of ballast water management. The International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments (BWM Convention) is set to go into force on September 8, 2017. The IMO has already type-approved over 60 ballast water treatment systems.
The Washington DOE has a non-fee based program modeled after California’s program. They have completed some ballast water testing through a cooperative agreement with the University of Washington. In thirteen years, the California State Lands Commission Program has only been able to test ballast water samples for salinity. Salinity testing may be significant if a ship states on its ballast water reporting form that the water in its tanks was sourced in fresh or brackish water. Then the salinity of the sample could be compared to the salinity of a mid-ocean sample. Such a small percentage of ships claim to have sourced ballast water in or near a freshwater port that it makes random testing for salinity irrelevant.
Researchers from the University of Michigan have been studying bacteria and viruses in ballast water. These scientists have traveled to California to pursue their research projects. Also, Dr. Nick Welschmeyer, of Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, specializes in ballast water testing. It appears that, even with a substantial staff, the Marine Invasive Species Program (MISP) management in California is either unwilling or unable to test ballast water samples for non-native species. Without scientific research, testing protocols, or definitive ballast water testing taking place within the State of California, a fee increase appears unwarranted.
The California State Lands Commission’s former MISP Program Manager, now Assistant Division Chief, stated that it would cost several thousand dollars per ballast water sample in order to have Dr. Welschmeyer test a ballast water sample for the Program. The logistical issues of obtaining a sample and transporting it to Moss Landing would be prohibitive, let alone the fact that the Program has still not approved testing protocols for ballast water sampling. There are several issues surrounding chain of custody, delivery, and testing methods that have stalled the sampling of ballast water on commercial ships calling at California ports.
With the recent bankruptcy of Hanjin Shipping, it is apparent that freight rates and profit margins are low for container shipping companies. This is one of the worst times to impose a fee increase on trade coming into the State of California. Los Angeles, Long Beach, and Oakland are major shipping ports, not just for California consumers, but for shipments bound for cities across the country. California ports need to stay competitive while still fulfilling their role as environmental stewards. The Marine Invasive Species Program in California is setting itself up as yet another state bureaucracy, more concerned with its own existence than the well-being of the environment it was established to protect.
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The entry shown in this blog is comprised of the thoughts and opinions of Laura Kovary and may not necessarily reflect that of Maritime Professional. Laura holds an Unlimited Master’s License with sailing experience on board tankers, freighters, container, and passenger ships. Her first ship was a research vessel for U.S. Geological Survey where she spent a month in the ice pack of the Chukchi Sea, above the Arctic Circle. In 1990-1991, Kovary sailed into Desert Storm as Chief Mate on the S.S. CALIFORNIA carrying troops and vehicles to Saudi Arabia.
As a member of the second class of women to graduate from a maritime academy, Kovary also claims the honor of being a graduate of two maritime academies. She attended California Maritime Academy (now CSUM) for undergraduate studies and Maine Maritime for her graduate degree in Maritime Management.
Kovary has been employed as an Assistant Professor and Adjunct Professor at two state maritime academies. She taught courses including: Navigation, Seamanship, and Principles of Management. She is presently an Instructor for UCLA Extension, teaching Global Supply Chain Management.
Following the birth of her daughter, Captain Kovary has worked ashore as the California Port Superintendent for BP Shipping, Senior Account Executive for 2 major tug companies, and as a State employee regulating marine oil terminals and the marine invasive species program. Currently, Kovary is a partner at Training Compliance Solutions and working as a port environmental and port security consultant for Environmental Maritime Services.
Kovary is on the Board of Governors, and immediate Past President, of the LA/LB Propeller Club. She has held several positions on the LA/LB Harbor Safety Committee, and has been active on several other committees such as the MTS Recovery Unit, former Chairman of the MTS Safety and Security Subcommittee, and the LA/LB Area Maritime Security Committee.