US FMC launches investigation into Canadian ballast water regulations

The US Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) has voted unanimously to accept a petition filed by the Lake Carriers’ Association (LCA) that alleges the ballast water regulations, as proposed by the Government of Canada, will discriminate against the US flag vessel operators.

International Maritime Organization

In accepting the LCA petition, the maritime regulator voted to initiate an investigation of the specific allegations set forth in their petition, to gather information and to solicit public comments.

As explained, the investigation will examine “the detriment and harm to the US flag fleet” resulting from the proposed regulations.

“The commission has long been concerned about the proposed Canadian ballast water regulations and the effect it will have on the US flag Laker fleet. These concerns have been expressed to Transport Canada in meetings and phone conferences for several years,” FMC said in a statement. 

“By accepting the LCA petition and initiating the investigation, the commission is not making a current determination that the proposed Transport Canada regulations are discriminatory; however, if the LCA petition allegations are substantiated through the commission investigation, then the commission will be in position to act expeditiously.”

If FMC finds that such regulations result in conditions unfavorable to shipping in a US-foreign trade, then the commission can levy fines on vessels calling at US ports, prohibit vessel calls at US ports, and restrict cargos that may be carried between the US and the foreign country.

In 2014, a study found that Great Lakes vessels posed a high risk of spreading invasive species to new areas, exacerbating associated negative effects.

Recently, Transport Canada proposed Great Lakes ballast water regulations that would apply to domestic and foreign vessels, including those operating in the Great Lakes Basin. Canada wants lakers to treat ballast water by September 8, 2024.

The US flag lakers transit Canadian waters not only when loading or discharging in Canada but also when trading between US ports. LCA earlier said that there is no treatment system that can work on lakers, so a transit standard would potentially ban US flag lakers from Canadian waters.

LCA represents US flag vessel operators on the Great Lakes. The association’s thirteen member companies operate 46 US-flag self-propelled vessels and tug/barge units.