Press Release

Posted on December 8, 2020

Docket No. 20–10, Comments on Conditions Created by Canadian Ballast Water Regulations in the U.S./Canada Great Lakes Trade

July 10, 2020

Federal Maritime Commission
800 North Capitol Street, N.W
Washington, D.C. 20573

Via email to:

Subject: Docket No. 20–10, Comments on Conditions Created by Canadian Ballast Water Regulations in the U.S./Canada Great Lakes Trade

Founded in 1992, Great Lakes Maritime Task Force (GLMTF) promotes domestic and international shipping on the Great Lakes. With 76 members, it is the largest coalition to ever speak for the U.S. Great Lakes shipping community and draws its membership from both labor and management representing, shipboard and longshore unions, port authorities, cargo shippers, terminal operators, shipyards, U.S.-flag vessel operators and other Great Lakes interests.

GLMTF is fully supportive of the Lake Carriers’ Association’s (LCA’s) petition to the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) challenging any claim by Transport Canada to have the right to indirectly regulate discharges of ballast water into U.S. Great Lakes waters.

We disagree with Transport Canada’s assertion that they can and should regulate the U.S.-flag Great Lakes commercial maritime fleet’s ability to carry U.S. cargoes to Canada out of existence by limiting their ability to offset the weight of that discharged cargo with ballast water. This assertion appears based upon a mistaken belief that somehow ballast water loaded in Canada and discharged into U.S. waters of the Great Lakes represents an environmental threat to Canadian waters. Regulating only ballast water discharges in their own country’s waters is what the rest of the world does and it should be sufficient for Canada.

The Great Lakes maritime community relies on a strong interconnected system that includes U.S., Canadian, and foreign-flag vessels (“salties”), and all the supporting ports, trades, industries, and individuals needed to foster the movement of cargoes so vital to the Great Lakes economy. You cannot take a major piece out of the Great Lakes commercial maritime structure and expect it to operate efficiently, economically, sustainably, or environmentally. Transport Canada’s proposal to regulate the U.S.-flag fleet out of the bi-national cross-Lakes trade through an unrealistic requirement to install ballast water management systems (BWMSs) that (1) are operationally incompatible with the U.S.-flag laker fleet; (2) have not been proven to work properly in the Great Lakes; (3) violate state drinking water laws with respect to chemical disinfection processes; and (4) are economically prohibitive to install, is ridiculous.

Environmentally, regulating the loading of ballast water would do nothing to protect Canadian Great Lakes waters. It would not change any Canadian port to Canadian port shipping dynamic, which is reserved for Canadian vessels. It would only change the U.S. port to Canadian port shipping patterns by replacing the U.S.-flag fleet carrying U.S. export cargoes with a Canadian-flag fleet carrying those same U.S. cargoes. According to the Lake Carriers’ Association, this would result in the loss of 2 vessels from the American fleet. The U.S.-flag laker fleet would suffer the loss of 42 jobs due to Transport Canada’s expansive proposal. Licensed officers would have 18 fewer opportunities to go to sea. Unlicensed sailors would lose 24 family sustaining jobs.

Economically, this requirement would be a disaster for U.S.-flag Great Lakes shipping. That would be a giveaway, or rather a “take,” of an average of 2.5 million tons of U.S. cargoes to the Canadian fleet annually based on a recent historical average for the U.S. to Canada cross-lakes export trade. The U.S.-flag Great Lakes fleet would be forced to give up an average of 3-4 percent of the U.S.-flag Great Lakes fleet annual tonnage every year.

There has been no documentation, research, or discovery of any non-native aquatic species becoming established in a new location because of the ballast water of a Great Lakes vessel, U.S.-flag or Canadian-flag. Since 2006, there have not been any recorded new establishments of non-native aquatic species transported between Great Lakes ports whether it was U.S. to U.S., Canadian to Canadian, U.S. to Canadian, or Canadian to U.S. ports. This is a resounding success story for the protection of the Great Lakes.1

There was a Canadian study that argued U.S.-flag 1,000-foot long lakers, commonly referred to a “footers,” represent the largest threat to the movement of non-native aquatic species in the Great Lakes without any scientific evidence. That Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) study provided no evidence to support this theory other than the footers carry the most ballast water per trip of any vessels operating in the Great Lakes. This assumption failed to understand that ballast water volumes are driven by cargo volumes and that moving the same amount of cargo using a larger number of smaller vessels does not reduce the total amount of ballast water discharged. Given the data since 2006, U.S. lakers are not fostering the successful establishment of non-native aquatic species outside of their current locations.

So why does Transport Canada believe that regulating the loading of ballast water in Canadian ports that will be discharged in U.S. ports, effectively regulating what U.S.-flag vessels discharge in U.S. waters, is protective of Canadian waters? GLMTF does not understand and we see no adequate environmental justification in Gazette I for this approach. The only angle we see is a cargo grab, an economic end run.

Publicly, Transport Canada has said their ballast water regulations are implementing the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO’s) 2004 ballast water convention. This convention only requires regulating the discharge of ballast water. Nowhere does it mention, suggest, or direct signatory countries, which Canada is, and the U.S. is not, to regulate the loading of ballast water. We cannot find another signatory or non-signatory country in the world that is regulating the loading of ballast water. This is especially relevant where other signatory and non-signatory states to the IMO ballast water convention share restricted waterways such as in the Caspian Sea, Black Sea, Baltic Sea, and the Mediterranean as the U.S. and Canada does in the Great Lakes.

For years, Transport Canada, the U.S. EPA, USCG, U.S. states, and numerous environmental and industry organizations have been calling for “compatible” and “harmonious” regulation of ballast water on the Great Lakes. The GLMTF has been an ardent supporter of this goal. In our position paper approved by the full membership on November 26th, 2019, Uniform Regulation of Ballast Water, we state the goal of any regulation should be “protective of the environment, maintain efficient waterborne commerce on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway, and are binationally compatible.” Transport Canada’s Gazette I proposal to regulate the loading of ballast water is not more protective of the environment, eliminates “efficient waterborne commerce” by taking the U.S.-flag fleet out of competition for moving U.S. cargoes to Canada, and are far from “compatible” (possibly conflicting with upcoming U.S. EPA and USCG regulations being developed under the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act enacted by Congress in 2018). Our position aligns with the stated positions of LCA2, Canadian Chamber of Marine Commerce3, the binational Great Lakes Commission4, and even Transport Canada5!

The IMO ballast water convention is built around mutual regulation of discharges of ballast water in each signatory’s jurisdiction. To claim that regulating the loading of ballast water for discharge in another, non-signatory country, as the U.S. is, is mandated by the convention is wrong and we challenge Transport Canada to provide a citation in the IMO ballast water convention to support their claim.

GLMTF agrees that Transport Canada can regulate discharges into their own jurisdictional waters of the Great Lakes, but in no way should Canada regulate ballast water loaded in Canadian waters and discharged into U.S. waters. Current U.S. federal and Great Lakes state statutes, regulations, and permits do not regulate the loading or discharge of ballast water in Canadian waters of the Great Lakes, nor is there an authorized mechanism for them to attempt such a unilateral economic grab.

In its petition, LCA asserts that the cost of the proposed Canadian regulations would make U.S.-flag laker carriage of U.S. exports to Canada uneconomical and they would likely have to abandon that trade, leaving Canadian-flag vessels with an effective monopoly. In its petition, LCA cites a 25-year cost of $1.132 billion (CDN) to the U.S.-flag Great Lakes fleet to move 71.1 million net tons in the cross-lakes trade. This would add $15.92 (CDN) per ton which will be unacceptable to shippers and cargo owners and will drive the U.S.-flag Great Lakes fleet out of the cross-lakes trade. Comparatively, the cost to comply for the Canadian-flag Great Lakes fleet is estimated at $632 million (CDN), roughly half that of U.S. compliance costs, due to their newer construction, typically in China or Croatia for the newest vessels, and lower ballast water volumes and flow rates. They can easily recover the cost of compliance because they will benefit from a Transport Canada-sponsored monopoly in the bi-national cross-lakes trade, of which they already carry more than 90%.

According to a 2018 study on the economic impacts of Great Lakes commercial maritime, the annual economic activity spurred by the U.S.-flag Great Lakes fleet is $33.2 billion (CDN). Take away that 3-4 percent of annual cargoes is roughly equal to shifting $1 billion (CDN) from the U.S. to Canada, a huge hit to U.S. citizens afloat and ashore. The impact goes far beyond the sailors and vessel operators. Shipyards will be impacted by the lost vessels. Indirect and direct jobs will also be lost by GLMTF members, our suppliers and from wages not spent. Taxes will be paid to the Canadian Government and provinces instead of American governments. In these tough times every single job counts and every single dollar counts.

As we stated at the top of this letter, GLMTF is fully supportive of LCA’s petition to the FMC challenging Transport Canada’s claim to be able, and mandated, to regulate discharges of ballast water into U.S. Great Lakes waters.

Please let us know if you have any questions regarding this letter or our commitment to ensure that fair binational trade, equitable regulation, and U.S. jobs are not forfeited if Transport Canada’s ballast water regulations are enacted as proposed in their Gazette I.


Richard Hammer, Donjon Shipbuilding and Repair
GLMTF 3rd Vice President – Government Relations

John E. Clemons, American Maritime Officers, AFL-CIO
GLMTF President

James H.I. Weakley, Lake Carriers’ Association
GLMTF 1st Vice President – Membership

John D. Baker, ILA-Local 1317
GLMTF 2nd Vice President – Positions & Resolutions

1 Great Lakes Aquatic Nonindigenous Species Information System (GLANSIS),, accessed online July 8, 2020.

2 “Ballast water regulations that are protective of the environment, maintain efficient waterborne commerce, and are binationally compatible are critical to ensuring the ecologic and economic health of the Great Lakes region.” Ballast Water Regulation, posted online June 16, 2020.

3 “The Chamber of Marine Commerce urges the governments of Canada and the United States to come together to forge a bilateral arrangement on managing ballast water. The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Region is a bi-national contiguous ecosystem and marketplace and a common, practical approach is needed to both adequately protect the environment and ensure a level-playing field for both countries’ fleets.” Solutions for Ballast Water Management policy statement, accessed online July 7, 2020.

4 “Great Lakes Commission urges the Governments of Canada and the United States to pursue compatible federal ballast water treatment standards and enforcement mechanisms.” Ballast Water Management in the Great Lakes St. Lawrence River System, Resolution, adopted March 15, 2017.

5 “Canada values the long-standing co-operation we have enjoyed with the U.S. in managing our navigable boundary waters. Now we must work together to find a compatible approach to ballast water regulation that is practical and protective, and that satisfies all regulators.” Ballast water and the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway System, accessed online July 7, 2020.