The US Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) is investigating Canada’s incoming ballast water regulations to explore if they will have a “disparate effect” on US flagged vessels after concerns from shipping operators in the Great Lakes. 

The FMC’s investigation will explore whether the regulations constitute a Foreign Shipping Practices violation under US law by putting US vessels at a disadvantage compared to Canadian ships operating in the region at the border. 

An announcement by the FMC said it had determined that “sufficient facts exist related to the Canadian ballast water regulations” to warrant the beginning of an investigation. 

Canada’s regulations will be introduced in September 2024, in line with the IMO’s full expansion of its own rules, and are designed to reduce the spread of invasive species through the discharge of ballast water. 

Rules will apply to all newly built vessels and all Great Lakes and Canadian ships built in or after 2009 while those built before 2009 will have to comply by 2030. 

The FMC said it has been looking in to the issue since March 2020 when a petition filed by the Lake Carriers’ Association (LCA) called for action from the commission. 

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The LCA has welcomed the news of the investigation and said Canada’s regulations would require US vessels to comply even if they were to discharge water picked up in Canadian water in the US side of the Great Lakes. 

LCA President Jim Weakley said: “The proposed regulation is severely biased and shamefully uses a serious issue to impose a trade barrier and increase profits for Canadian companies at the expense of everyday Americans.  This is not about protecting the environment; this is about economic manipulation.” 

Earlier this year, Ship Technology spoke to the CEO of ballast water treatment company Bawat about the issues facing the shipping industry when the IMO’s regulations come into force in September.