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Seaway Sustainability

U.S.-Canadian Federal Report Highlights Continued Effectiveness of the Great Lakes Seaway System Ballast Water Inspection Program

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In January 2021, a new report showed the continued effectiveness of the current Great Lakes Seaway ballast water management regime during the 2020 navigation season. This was evident in both the number of ballast tank inspections of oceangoing commercial ships entering the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway System from outside U.S. or Canadian waters, as well as the extent of compliance with ballast water management requirements.

The report was prepared by the Great Lakes Seaway Ballast Water Working Group (BWWG), which includes representatives of the GLS, SLSMC, the U.S. Coast Guard’s (USCG) Ninth District, and Transport Canada. The group coordinates U.S. and Canadian enforcement and compliance efforts to reduce the introduction of aquatic invasive species in the Great Lakes Seaway System via ships’ ballast water.

The 2020 Summary of Great Lakes Seaway Ballast Water Working Group examined the U.S.- Canada Great Lakes Seaway System ballast water ship inspection program. During 2020, 100 percent of the ships bound for the Great Lakes from outside the Exclusive Economic Zone received a ballast tank exam prior to entering the St. Lawrence Seaway for the 11th consecutive year.

In total, 10,628 ballast tanks were assessed during 536 inbound ocean vessel transits in 2020. Additionally, BWWG agencies issued a Letter of Retention for 55 vessel transits involving 191 ballast tanks. Letters of Retention are issued for vessels that choose to retain the contents of the ballast water tanks, in lieu of another management option. When the vessel departs the Seaway System, compliance is verified and the letter is rescinded. There was one vessel found to be in non-compliance with USCG Ballast water regulations in 2020. The BWWG anticipates continued high vessel compliance rates for future navigation seasons.

The Great Lakes Aquatic Nonindigenous Species Information System, maintained by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), documents that Seaway regulations and the effectiveness of the BWWG and the ballast water inspection program have been publicly credited as key factors in dramatically decreasing the risk of aquatic invasive species introductions by international vessels transiting the Seaway (only 2 possible introductions since 2006 compared to 15 for 1991-2006).  To learn more about ballast water, visit Great Lakes Ballast Water and the Great Lakes Ballast Water Collaborative.

GLS Continues to Support Binational “Green Marine” Program; Achieves High Level of Environmental Performance

In FY 2021, the GLS continued to financially support and participate in the U.S.-Canadian “Green Marine” initiative, a marine industry partnership program aimed at demonstrating and communicating the maritime industry’s commitment to addressing several key environmental issues.

The objective of the Green Marine program, which was launched in October 2007, is to build and maintain strong relations with key stakeholders and to develop a greater awareness of the maritime industry’s activities, benefits, and challenges. To accomplish this, Green Marine activities are directed towards strengthening the industry’s environmental standards and performance through a process of continuous improvement. The program focuses on helping the maritime industry represent itself uniformly, strengthening industry involvement in regulatory processes, and improving regulatory outcomes.

All Green Marine participants must complete a yearly self-evaluation to demonstrate their environmental performance based on numerous criteria and undergo an independent third-party verification every two years to confirm the results and provide input and guidance on reaching the highest level. The performance indicators range on a scale from 1 to 5, with 1 representing regulatory compliance and 5 reflecting leadership and excellence.

For the 2020 rating period, the GLS and SLSMC had their results published as a single entry by Green Marine to reflect the binational nature of the Seaway and the collaborative work by both entities in pursuing environmental excellence. The GLS/SLSMC scored a 4.1 for Waste Management and Greenhouse Gases and Air Pollutants, and earned a perfect score of 5.0 for Environmental Leadership, Community Impacts, and Spill Prevention. 

Discover the Benefits of Shipping: Marine Transport.