Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement: Ship-source pollution


To contribute to the discussion about the ship-source pollution section of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, post your thoughts below. If you want the U.S. and Canadian governments to consider your input, send it to the official website.

Requirements for the Parties under the current GLWQA related to ship-source and shipping-related discharges and emissions are specified in separate Annexes:

Annex 4 — Requirements for Oil and Hazardous substances discharges
Annex 5 — Garbage, Sewage and Cargo Residues
Annex 6 — The potential for discharge of Aquatic Invasive Species from ballast water is mentioned, as well as the requirement to review and report on pollution from shipping sources, consult with the IJC, and study any potential pollution problem from ships identified by the Parties
Annex 8 — sets out requirements for Onshore and Offshore Oil Handling Facilities but specifically exclude vessels
Annex 9 — sets out requirement for a joint contingency plan in response to oil spills

1. Ship Air Emissions

The current GLWQA deals with the following ship-source discharges that could have negative effects upon the water quality of the Great Lakes: Annex 4 for Oil and Hazardous Pollution Substances; Annex 5 for Sewage and Garbage (Ship Generated Garbage and Cargo Residues); and Annex 6 for Invasive species in Ballast Water.

Both Canada and the United States have compatible regulations for the discharges that are identified in the current GLWQA that are based on International Conventions. Air pollution / emissions from ships as they would affect water quality are not currently included in the Shipping Annexes of the GLWQA, although both Canada and the U.S. have agreements in place to ensure that this source of pollution is regulated.

The following are some considerations for the amendments to the GLWQA.

* Not include air emissions from ships as it is not a water quality issue.

* Include air emissions from ships by either establishing new standards or by referencing in the Agreement existing national commitments to manage ship air emissions.

2. Managing Ship-Source Discharges and Emissions

The current Annexes required both parties to have compatible regulations. The Parties’ maritime agencies (United States Coast Guard, Transport Canada, and Canadian Coast Guard) have implemented this requirement. While not always exact, the regulatory environment for all ship-source discharges and emissions included in the GLWQA to date has been both compatible and consistent.

Canada and the United States have been active internationally at the International Maritime Organization and the Great Lakes experience has driven many of the international regulatory processes. Both parties have ratified, or will ratify the majority of international ship source pollution prevention conventions. Alternately, the U.S. has put in place an equivalent regulatory regime. The binational cooperation to date on ship-source discharges and emissions on the Great Lakes has been cited as a model for global practices – especially on the ballast water regulatory and enforcement regime.

The following are some considerations for the amendments to the GLWQA.

* The current binational structure in managing ship-source discharges and emissions via a compatible regulatory regime is appropriate.

* Other forms of managing ship-source discharges and emissions should be considered.

3. Scientific Studies

The current GLWQA required “studies” to establish a basis for improved procedures for the abatement of discharges and emissions from shipping sources. Both parties have consistently used science-based decision-making (often joint or binational) as an input for the regulatory regime for ship-source discharges and emissions into the Great Lakes.

The following are some considerations for the amendments to the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.

* Existing mechanisms to provide science as a basis for improved procedures are sufficiently developed to address this issue.

* Existing mechanisms to provide science as a basis for improved procedures are sufficient, but would benefit from additional binational coordination processes.

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