Full service technical support for the international maritime and petroleum industries.


Environmental Laws and Regulations

Ballast Water

In the United States, ballast water discharges are regulated by both the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  The USCG verifies compliance with U.S. ballast water discharge regulations through routine Port State Control examinations. This webpage provides an overview of the USCG and EPA ballast water discharge requirements. GMS Clients should refer to the appropriate “Vessel Arrival” checklists for more detailed information concern ballast water discharges in the U.S.

The Vessel Incidental Discharge Act (VIDA):  VIDA was enacted in December 2018 and will significantly change the way the USCG and EPA regulate ballast water, but the changes required by this law will not come into force for at least 4 years.  As such, current USCG and EPA regulations and policies remain in effect.  For more information regarding the VIDA, please refer to GMS Client Advisory 21-18.

External Resources:  The below links provide further information about the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and International Maritime Organization Ballast Water Management Programs/Policies/Regulations.

U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) Ballast Water Program Website:  This page provides authoritative details on the USCG BW regulations and news related to Coast Guard Type Approved Ballast Water Management Systems (BWMS).  Links on this page include Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), General Information, Regulations and Policy Documents, Alternative Management Systems, Type Approval and the Environmental Technology Verification (ETV) Program.  The website can be found here:

Recent USCG policies and guidance documents can be found at the USCG Ballast Water Website. Two of the most recent USCG policies are described below:

Policy Letter CG-CVC 18-02 was published by the USCG on 19 February 2018. This policy letter provides guidance for vessel owner/operators and policy for USCG Captain of the Ports for a vessel that is bound for the U.S. and that has an inoperative ballast water management system.

Navigation and Inspection Circular (NVIC) 01-18 was published by the USCG on 1 March 2018. This NVIC provides ballast water management guidance for vessels operating in the U.S., including reporting and recordkeeping requirements, compliance requirements, and information regarding USCG Port State Control inspection and enforcement procedures.

US Coast Guard Ballast Water Extension Forms and Supplements: These files are provided to assist Clients with filing extension requests of the Ballast Water Management Practices Implementation Date with the US Coast Guard.

Beginning in 2017 coinciding with the USCG type approval of several ballast management systems, and continuing through 2018, the USCG has increased scrutiny of requests for extensions to a vessels ballast water management methods implementation dates.  GMS Client Advisory 08-17 details this change to the USCG policy.  In addition, the USCG has provided a document that details “Highlights and Tips for Extension Applications.”  This revised and updated information can be found by visiting the links below:

USCG BWM Extension CG-OES Policy Letter No. 13-01 Rev 2

Supplemental forms and templates:

USCG BWM Extensions – Highlights and Tips for Application

USCG BWM Extensions – Application

USCG BWM Extensions – Request Letter Template

US Coast Guard Approved Equipment List: This page can be used to search the type approval numbers for all marine equipment type approved by the US Coast Guard. Ballast Water Management Systems that have received USCG type approved can be researched on this website. In the “Approval Series Name” field, click the drop-down and select “BALLAST WATER MANAGEMENT SYSTEM – 162.060”. This page also shows type approvals for sewage treatment plants.

US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA):  The EPA regulates the discharge of ballast water by requiring a vessel to have a Vessel General Permit (VGP).  The VGP and associated VGP Fact Sheet which provides detailed information regarding the EPA’s ballast water discharge requirements can be found at this website:

For vessel using a ballast water management system, the EPA requires sampling and analysis of the ballast water prior to the first use of the system in U.S. waters.  In addition, sampling must be conducted two times during the first year the system is installed and periodically after that depending on the results of the analysis.

For more information about sampling and analysis required by the EPA, the EPA’s “How To” Reference for Vessel Discharge Sample Collection and Analytical Monitoring can be downloaded from this website:

 EPA Enforcement Policy: The US Coast Guard ballast water regulations require the use of a Coast Guard Type Approved Ballast Water Management/Treatment System. The EPA’s 2013 Vessel General Permit only requires that such a system be “3rd party approved”. This policy letter explains the EPA’s position on enforcing the 2013 VGP in this particular area.

EPA 2013 VGP BWTS Enforcement Policy

The International Maritime Organization regulates the discharge of ballast water through the Ballast Water Management Convention which came into force in September 2017. 

IMO Ballast Water Management Website. This website describes ballast water and invasive species issues under consideration by the IMO and contains additional links for more information about the Ballast Water Management Convention.

North America Emissions Control Area

IMO Circulars on the North Emission Control Area. IMO circulars MEPC.190(60) and MEPC.1/Circ.723, both of which contains a map and border-line coordinates of the NA-ECA.


MEPC.1 Circ 723

US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) webpage on vessel air emissions: This webpage and its related links provide a full description of the EPA’s rules regarding Sulfur Oxide and Nitrous Oxide emissions.

IMO web page on reduction of sulfur content effective 01 January 2015: This webpage and its links discuss the reduction of sulfur content permissible for use in the Emission Control Areas from 1.0% to 0.1% Sulfur.

Client Advisory on submitting Fuel Oil Non-Availability Report (FONAR) to US EPA: This Client Advisory describes the process for submitting a FONAR electronically to the EPA.

GMS Client Advisory 06-13 – EPA Fuel Non Availability System Instructions

GMS Client Advisory 06-13 – Electronic Fuel Non-Availability Disclosure Portal


Hawaii Department of Health VGP Filing

The State of Hawaii requires ships to register on their Department of Health website and obtain a permit number for compliance with their State VGP requirements. The filing process takes time and is not intuitive. The following document describes this process, which must be followed exactly.

Instructions for Filing Hawaii Department of Health VGP Certification


2013 Vessel General Permit (VGP)

The US EPA has an extensive series of web pages describing the 2013 Vessel General Permit.

Vessel Discharges Homepage: This webpage is the homepage for the EPA’s 2013 Vessel General Permit. From here you can download copies of the VGP document

2013 VGP FAQ: This link opens a web page to EPA’s comprehensive Frequently Asked Question section which answers questions related to Environmentally Accepted Lubricants and other issues related to VGP compliance.


Asian Gypsy Moth

This excerpt from the US Department of Agriculture’s “Manual for Agricultural Clearance” explain the US Government’s policy and rules regarding the Asian Gypsy Moth.

2018 USDA CFIA Joint AGM Pre Season Bulletin

Asian Gypsy Moth (AGM) Inspection Guide

US Dept of Agriculture AGM_Ship Inspection_9-2013


Automated Manifest System (AMS) and US CBP Carrier Bond Information

This FAQ document contains information on the US Customs Border Patrol’s Automated Manifest System and how to obtain a Carrier Bond.

Automated Manifest System FAQs