With effect from 27th September 2004, all ships are required to carry out ballast water management (BWM) prior to entry into a US port. Additionally, with effect from 13th August 2004, all ships are required to submit a ballast water report form 24 hours prior to arrival at a US port. Ballast water reporting requirements apply to all vessels bound for ports or places in the US regardless of whether it is operated outside of the Exclusive Economic Zone (which includes the equivalent zone of Canada), unless exempted.
The regulations require all vessels equipped with ballast water tanks entering US waters after operating beyond the US Exclusive Economic Zone to employ at least one of the following BWM practices:
- prior to discharging ballast water in US waters, perform complete ballast water exchange in an area no less than 200 nautical miles (nm) from any shore
- retain ballast water onboard the vessel
- prior to the vessel entering US waters, use an alternative environmentally sound method of BWM that has been approved by the US Coast Guard.
All ships will be required to develop and maintain a BWM plan. The plan is to be specific to each vessel and is to show that there is a BWM strategy; and to allow the master or other ship's officer to understand and follow the BWM strategy for the vessel. The vessel will not be prohibited from discharging the minimum amount of its ballast water necessary to maintain the safety of the vessel in areas other than the Great Lakes and the Hudson River. However, the vessel is allowed to discharge only the amount of ballast water operationally necessary for safety concerns.