Coast Guard Proposes to Exempt Ferries From Oil Filtering Requirements

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The U.S. Coast Guard is proposing to exempt high-speed, oceangoing ferries that weigh at least 400 gross tons from installing oil filtering equipment as long as they contain holding tanks for oily bilge water, according to a notice published April 9 (77 Fed. Reg. 21,360).

The Coast Guard also is seeking comment on whether to require oily bilge water storage tanks to be installed on new non-oceangoing ships that weigh 400 gross tons and are delivered three years after the publication of the final rule.

The holding and storage tank requirements are among a half dozen changes that the Coast Guard is proposing to domestic regulations to align them with international standards governing marine pollution prevention and marine safety related to discharges of oily residues and bilge water.

The proposed rule would amend 33 C.F.R. Parts 151, 155, 156, and 157 and 46 C.F.R. Part 197. It would align U.S. standards with recent amendments to Annex I of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, 1973, as modified by the Protocol of 1978, which were adopted by the Marine Environment Protection Committee, a committee of the International Maritime Organization, during its 52nd, 54th, 56th, and 59th sessions.

EPA said the goal of the proposed rulemaking is to protect the marine environment from discharges of bilge water and oil residues carried aboard oil tankers weighing at least 150 gross tons and oceangoing ships weighing at least 400 gross tons.

Existing Coast Guard regulations at 33 C.F.R. 155.360 and 155.370 apply to oceangoing vessels that weigh at least 400 gross tons. They require such vessels to be fitted with tanks that would store oil residue and with equipment designed to filter oil water mixtures.

Ferries With 24-Hour Turnaround Time

One proposed change would apply to high-speed, oceangoing ferries that have a turnaround time of 24 hours. The proposal would exempt ferries from having to install oil filters as long as they have tanks capable of holding oily bilge water for the length of the voyage.

The proposal also would require vessels--other than the oceangoing ferries--that weigh at least 400 gross tons to ensure the oil sludge tanks have a separate designated pump and that there be no discharge connections to oily bilge water holding tanks. In addition, the oil sludge tanks would have to be fitted with drains that are manually operated, according to the Coast Guard proposal.

“This provision will reduce the risk of oil spills by insuring segregation of oily sludge residue from the bilge system,” the Coast Guard wrote in the proposed rule. “These measures prevent the direct discharge of oily sludge residue and the indirect discharge through oily bilge water.”

Seeking Data on Oily Bilge Discharges

The Coast Guard also is seeking comment on whether to require new non-oceangoing ships that weigh at least 400 gross tons to be equipped with storage tanks for oily bilge water. Specifically, the agency wants information on the number, size, composition, and resulting damage to the environment from oily bilge discharges from non-oceangoing vessels.

The agency has sought comment on the costs of holding tanks for new ships and existing vessels and any additional thoughts on cost-effective alternatives to installing holding tanks as a way to curb oily water discharges.

The Coast Guard also is proposing to require reporting of failures of oil filtering equipment and oil discharge monitoring systems, and bunkering of oil into oil record books maintained by ships that weigh more than 400 gross tons and oil tankers that weigh 150 gross tons or more. Bunkering of oil refers to the transfer of fuel or lubricating oil from bunker barges to large ships.

The Coast Guard will accept comments until July 9, 2012. Comments should be identified by Docket I.D. No. USCG-2010-0194 and submitted at

By Amena H. Saiyid  

For more information about the proposal, contact Patrick J. Mannion in the Coast Guard's Office of Operating and Environmental Standards at or (202) 372-1439 .

The Coast Guard's proposed rule is available at

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