News 05 Dec, 2008

US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Vessel General Permit (VGP Requirements)

US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Vessel General Permit (VGP) Requirements


As Members will be aware from Notice to Members No. 10 2008/2009, new regulations concerning the discharge of waste streams from vessels into US waters will be brought into force in the near future.

In order to assist Members in understanding and complying with these regulations, we set out below some frequently asked questions and a comprehensive guidance note from the Association’s general US pollution counsel Dewey & LeBoeuf can be found by clicking here.

Members may also be interested to know that Dewey & LeBoeuf are hosting a conference on environmental matters including these new regulations in London on Wednesday 10 December 2008. Details can be found by clicking here.


Frequently Asked Questions

What has caused a change in this policy?
What are the key dates?
Where do the new regulations apply and to what vessels?
What new practices may need to be introduced on board?
Do I need to submit any application to the EPA before 19 December 2008?
What do I need to do after 19 December 2008?
What happens if a vessel violates the requirements?
Will individual states in the US apply their own laws?
Where can I find further information?

What has caused this change in policy?

A court ruling in the United States has forced the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to change their regulations. Environmental campaigners successfully argued that waste water discharges incidental to the operation of a vessel should no longer be exempted from the Clean Water Act.
Back

What are the key dates?

The EPA is expected to issue a Vessel General Permit (VGP) on 19 December 2008. Notices of Intent (NOI's) for all qualifying vessels must be submitted between 19 June 2009 and 19 September 2009.
Back

Where do the new regulations apply and to what vessels?

The regulations will apply to all US and foreign flag commercial vessels if they discharge waste water as an incidental part of their operations and are 79ft or more in length and upwards of 300 gross tonnes in size or have the capacity to hold or discharge more than 8 cubic metres of ballast water. Such vessels will be required to comply with the VGP while operating within the three mile territorial waters or inland waters of the United States.
Back

What new practices may need to be introduced on board?

The proposed VGP specifies effluent limits and conditions for all applicable discharges and includes requirements for self inspections, monitoring, reporting and record keeping. Additional requirements may apply depending on the type of vessel concerned. Vessels will also be required to carry out a comprehensive annual inspection of the areas specified in the VGP and conduct further inspections during dry dock. All inspections will need to be documented. For further details please see the proposed VGP, a copy of which may be found by clicking here.
Back

Do I need to submit any application to the EPA before 19 December 2008?

No. The EPA plans to introduce a Vessel General Permit (VGP) on 19 December 2008 which will authorise all qualifying vessels to continue discharging their waste streams in US waters. Owners and operators do not need to submit their own applications to the EPA at this time.
Back

What do I need to do after 19 December 2008?

Vessels will need to comply with the requirements of the VGP. In due course their owners or operators will need to submit a Notice of Intent (NOI) in order for vessels to continue discharging waste streams into US waters. This must be done no earlier than six months and no later than nine months after the implementation date, i.e. between 19 June 2009 and 19 September 2009. Details of the application process and a copy of the NOI application form can be found on the EPA website
Back

What happens if a vessel violates the requirements?

A vessel which is found to have violated the terms and conditions of the NOI once it has been submitted may be liable to civil penalties. If a violation is deemed to have taken place knowingly or negligently, criminal charges may be filed under the Clean Water Act.
Back

Will individual states in the US apply their own laws?

It is very likely that many states will use the opportunity to develop and implement their own regulations in this area. These may differ from the EPA regulations and make different demands on shipowners. Details will be provided to Members as and when available.
Back

Where can I find further information?

The EPA website provides full details of the regulations as well as fact sheets and guidance on how to submit an NOI. Information and recommendations regarding steps to be taken to comply with the regulations can also be found in a Dewey & LeBoeuf client alert (click here). In addition, Members’ QI/spill managers in the USA may be able to offer further guidance or prepare suitable procedures.
Back

Members may also contact the Managers for further information and advice.