Position Papers

Uniform Regulation of Ballast Water


Ballast water regulations that are protective of the environment, maintain efficient waterborne
commerce on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway, and are binationally compatible and equitable.


Vessel discharges, such as ballast water, are critical to maintain safe and efficient operations. The maritime industry has a long history of establishing best management practices and technical innovations to ensure the Great Lakes ecosystem is protected. However, ensuing legal battles opened the door for each state and multiple federal agencies to establish their own regulatory regimes that were often impossible to meet and conflicting. Great Lakes stakeholders pushed for a better way. The Vessel Incidental Discharge Act (VIDA), included in the Frank LoBiondo Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2018, establishes that long-sought process on the U.S. side of the Lakes to set uniform federal discharge requirements jointly regulated by the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG).

U.S. EPA published their proposed implementing regulations for VIDA on October 26, 2020 which addresses 20 discharges incidental to the normal operation of a vessel. In general, GLMTF supports this regulation including how ballast water is regulated in the Great Lakes. U.S. EPA proposes to eliminate the requirement that vessels operating exclusively on the Great Lakes (“lakers”) built on or after January 1, 2009 meet a numeric ballast water discharge standard that would now align with this existing exemption for lakers built before 2009.

GLMTF also supports a petition submitted by the Lake Carriers’ Association to the Federal Maritime Commission on March 6, 2020, citing unfair practices by the Government of Canada to require U.S.-flag lakers to install a ballast water management system on any vessel that wishes to trade in Canada, even if that is a U.S.-flag vessel bringing U.S. cargoes and not discharging any ballast water in Canadian waters. These Canadian regulations place an undue burden on the U.S.-flag Great Lakes fleet requiring unproven equipment that is operationally incompatible to be placed on each vessel wishing to trade in Canada at a cost of $639 million to the U.S.-flag Great Lakes fleet to comply. The Canadian fleet already owns 90 percent of that trade and now the Government of Canada wants to hand them the remaining 10 percent. Forcing this equipment on vessels without any demonstrable evidence of effectiveness is absurd.


Continue to work with the U.S. EPA, USCG, the eight Great Lakes states, and other stakeholders to develop federal vessel discharge regulations for the Great Lakes, as authorized in VIDA. Ensure they are workable with the operational requirements of the U.S.-flag Great Lakes fleet and are protective of the Great Lakes themselves. Work with our federal partners to realign the Canadian regulations and make them fair and compatible with U.S. requirements.