Court – EPA’s VGP program upheld;
Discussion – federal preemption of discharge standards for commercial vessels;
USN – actions during rescue of Jih Chun Tsai 68 from pirates;
NOAA – debris field from Japan tsunami; and
Singapore – new Port Operations Control Centre.
July 26, 2011
Bryant’s Maritime Blog
Bryant’s Maritime Consulting - 4845 SW 91st Way - Gainesville, FL 32608-8135 - USA
Note: This blog is one section of the Bryant’s Maritime Consulting website. Visit the site for more extensive maritime regulatory information. Individual concerns may be addressed by retaining Dennis Bryant directly. Much of the highlighted text in this newsletter constitutes links to Internet sites providing more detailed information. Links on this page may be in PDF format, requiring use of Adobe Acrobat Reader. Comments on these postings are encouraged and may be made by clicking the envelope that appears at the end of each posting. Be aware that the daily blog entry is a single posting, even though it contains a number of individual items. Searching for the elusive Higgs bison.
Court – EPA’s VGP program upheld
The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit denied a petition filed by the Lake Carriers’ Association (LCA) for review of a nationwide permit (the Vessel General Permit or VGP) issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for the discharge of pollutants incidental to the normal operation of commercial vessels operating on the navigable waters of the United States. The LCA raised a number of procedural challenges, all related to EPA’s decision to incorporate into the permit various conditions that states submitted to protect their own water quality. The court found that the LCA had not shown that the additional procedures they requested would have had any effect on the final EPA permit. Lake Carriers’ Association v. Environmental Protection Agency, No. 09-1001 (DC Cir., July 22, 2011).
Discussion – federal preemption of discharge standards for commercial vessels
I propose that Congress amend section 312(n) of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (FWPCA), 33 U.S.C. § 1322(n), to include commercial vessels operating on the navigable waters of the United States. Currently this statute provides that vessels of the Armed Forces shall comply with “uniform national discharge standards” and that those vessels are exempt from state and local regulation of covered discharges. The rationale for this law is that vessels of the Armed Forces should not be required to comply with different discharge standards based on which U.S. port they happen to be in at any particular time.
I suggest that the same rationale applies with equal force to vessels engaged in the foreign and interstate commerce of the United States. At the present moment, a commercial vessel may be in Oregon waters, operating in compliance with Oregon laws. If it transits to California, it must function in a different manner as regards discharges incidental to its normal operation in order to not violate California law. Vessels traveling along the Atlantic or Gulf coasts, or on the Great Lakes or inland waterways, face the need to change modus operandi on an even more frequent basis.
I am not suggesting that commercial vessels should be exempt from standards for discharges incidental to their normal operations – only that those standards should not change depending on whether the ship is on the New York or New Jersey side of the Port of New York/New Jersey, or at the pier in Philadelphia versus Camden. The expense of complying with multiple standards is only part of the problem. Crews, who are already over-worked, must devote additional time and effort to such inane compliance details. Owners and operators must defend themselves from enforcement actions brought by state and local enforcement officers well versed in the minutia of their particular requirements.
What is good for vessels of the Armed Forces should be sufficient for the vessels that support the economy of the United States. States don’t try to regulate commercial aircraft. Why should commercial vessels be any different?
What is your opinion?
USN – actions during rescue of Jih Chun Tsai 68 from pirates
The US Navy issued a news release stating that an investigation by the US Fifth Fleet has determined that the actions conducted by the USS Stephen W. Groves (FFG 29) during the May 10, 2011 operation to rescue the Taiwanese fishing vessel Jih Chun Tsai 68 (JCT 68) were in accordance with existing rules of engagement and in compliance with international law. For more than a year, the JCT 68 had been held by Somali pirates and used as a mothership. The master of the JCT 68 and three pirates were killed inadvertently during an operation to disable the skiffs on board and to free the mothership. (7/25/11).
NOAA – debris field from Japan tsunami
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) posted some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) regarding the debris field generated by the March 2011 tsunami in Japan. (6/13/11).
Singapore – new Port Operations Control Centre
The Singapore Maritime and Port Authority (MPA) issued a news release stating that the new Port Operations Control Centre – Changi (POCC-Changi) has been commissioned. It is equipped with a state-of-the-art Vessel Traffic Information System (VTIS) that pulls together information from radars, AIS, closed-circuit television, ship databases, and other sources to present a comprehensive sea situation picture. (7/25/11).
If you have questions regarding the above items, please contact the editor:
Dennis L. Bryant
Bryant’s Maritime Consulting
4845 SW 91st Way
Gainesville, FL 32608-8135
© Dennis L. Bryant – July 2011