Ballast Water Regulations and Policy




Equivalent Reporting Program


This program offers an alternative for an Owner, Operator, Master, Agent, Person-in-Charge or Charterer of a vessel to submit required Ballast Water Management (BWM) Reports in a single batch report on a monthly basis, instead of on a port-to-port, pre-arrival schedule as required under 33 CFR 151.204(b). To be accepted into this program, a BWM Equivalent Reporting Program Application must be filled out and emailed as an attachment to the Coast Guard’s Environmental Standards Division.

Each applicant vessel must operate exclusively within the EEZ or Canadian equivalent; must not have ever been listed on a Coast Guard Lookout List for failing to submit a BWM report or for submitting incomplete or inaccurate reports; have suitable capability for emailing the form as an attachment; and either make 10 or more BWM reports per calendar month or be part of a fleet of applicant vessels, owned by the same company, who make 50 or more BWM reports per calendar month.

To learn more about this program and download a BWM Equivalent Program Application and submission information, visit: NBIC. 

EPA Extension Enforcement Response Policy

This links contains a joint Coast Guard and EPA extension letter dated December 24, 2013 as well as the EPA Enforcement Response Policy dated December 27, 2013.

Biofouling Management and Sediment Management Plans

NVIC 01-18- Ballast Water Management for the Control of Aquatic Nuisance Species in the Waters of the U.S.


On March 1, 2018, the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) issued Navigation and Vessel Inspection Circular (NVIC) 01-018, titled “Ballast Water Management for the Control of Aquatic Nuisance Species in the Waters of the  United States.” This NVIC replaced NVIC 07-04, and provides guidance for USCG personnel, vessel owners and operators, masters, shipping agents, and persons-in-charge concerning compliance with and enforcement of the USCG’s Ballast Water Management (BWM) Program. The update incorporated new Ballast Water Management regulations that were published March 23, 2012.


USCG Practicability Review


The Coast Guard conducted a Practicability Review for the purpose of determining whether technology to comply with a performance standard more stringent than that required by the Coast Guard's current regulations on Ballast Water Discharges can be practicably implemented and whether testing protocols that can assure accurate measurement of compliance with a more stringent performance standard can be practicably implemented. Coast Guard ballast water regulations require the Coast Guard to undertake and publish the results of its Practicability Review. In the Practicability Review, we conclude that, at this time, technology to achieve a significant improvement in ballast water treatment efficacy onboard vessels cannot be practicably implemented.



No Ballast On Board


On August 31, 2005, the Coast Guard established a policy of best management practices for vessels entering the Great Lakes that declare No Ballast On Board (NOBOB). This new policy was established to reduce the introductions of aquatic nonindigenous species (NIS) into the Great Lakes.


Vessels declaring NOBOB carry residual ballast water and/or sediments that have the potential to harbor NIS. As these vessels transit the Great Lakes, they off-load their cargo and take on Great Lakes water as ballast water. Once NOBOB vessels take on new cargo, and discharge the mixed (residual and Great Lakes) ballast water, the potential exists for introduction of NIS into the Great Lakes.

The Coast Guard established best management practices for NOBOBs to encourage vessels to conduct mid-ocean ballast water exchange on ballast-laden voyages. If they are unable to conduct a mid-ocean ballast water exchange they are encouraged to conduct saltwater flushing of their empty ballast tanks. The NOBOB vessels that employ these practices should incorporate them into their Ballast Water Management Plan. The Coast Guard will monitor the shipping industry’s implementation of these practices to determine the success of the policy.

These best management practices are applicable to all vessels that enter the Great Lakes with empty ballast tanks that may be filled with ballast water and discharged within the Great Lakes.  Similar, but mandatory, rules for NOBOB's have been promulgated by the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation (SLSDC) and Saint Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation (SLSMC) regulations which require saltwater flushing for vessels arriving at the seaway (33 CFR 401.30).  

The U.S. EPA's Vessel General Permit also has requirements for flushing of NOBOB tanks.