EPA delays introduction of new VGP requirements

The following is text of a news release from Gard:

(WASHINGTON) — According to a recent regulatory update published by the classification society American Bureau of Shipping (ABS), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has further delayed the release of its new Vessel General Permit (VGP 3.0). The proposed VGP 3.0 was originally scheduled to be issued for comment in late 2017 but is now expected to be made available in March 2019 — with at least a 30-day comment period.

ABS states that, during the period until the final VGP 3.0 enters into force, the EPA has decided to administratively continue the current VGP 2.0 and that the following information will be contained in a policy letter to be published and distributed by the EPA in the near future:

• Vessels which are currently covered by the existing VGP 2.0, specifically those vessels which have filed a notice of intent (NOI) prior to Dec. 18, 2018, and have implemented VGP 2.0, are automatically covered by the administrative continuance with no additional followup action necessary.
• Operators of new vessels, with keel laid prior to Dec. 18, 2018, are required to file an NOI prior to Dec. 18, 2018 in order to be covered by VGP 2.0.
• If an operator of a vessel with keel laid prior to Dec. 18, 2018 does not file an NOI with the EPA, that vessel will not be covered by the administratively continued VGP 2.0, and therefore may not discharge any discharges covered by the VGP 2.0 in U.S. waters until it files a new NOI in accordance with the new VGP (VGP 3.0).
• Vessels with keel laid after Dec. 18, 2018 will be covered once the new VGP (VGP 3.0) is published in its final form and the vessel files the required NOI.

At the time of writing we hold no information about specific changes to the VGP requirements and potential consequences for the industry’s current compliance programs. Members and clients with vessels calling at U.S. ports are therefore advised to monitor the situation closely by consulting webpages maintained by the EPA as well as obtaining relevant advice from their local agents.

The VGP “in a nutshell”

The VGP provides for National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit coverage for incidental discharges into U.S. waters from commercial vessels greater than 79 feet in length and for ballast water discharges from commercial vessels of all sizes. The permit contains effluent limits for different types of discharges including ballast water, deck runoff, bilge water and graywater, as well requirements for the use of environmentally acceptable lubricants (EALs) in all oil-to-sea interfaces.

Each individual vessel in a fleet requires its own permit and the NOI requirements apply to vessels of 300 gross tons or more or vessels that have the ability to hold or discharge more than 8 cubic meters of ballast water. Operators of smaller vessels and of vessels with less ballast water capacity must instead complete a PARI form (fill and print) and keep a copy of that form onboard the vessel at all times.

For each vessel, operators must submit an annual report electronically for each year that they have active permit coverage.

The EPA first issued the VGP in 2008 and subsequently reissued it in 2013. The current VGP 2.0 is effective from Dec. 19, 2013 to Dec. 18, 2018 and a general overview of the VGP, its requirements, and practical information on how to submit NOIs and annual reports, are available on the EPA's website: https://www.epa.gov/npdes/vessels.

By Professional Mariner Staff