California - Ballast Water *Update*


The State of California has adopted new legislation on ballast water management, taking effect on 1 July 2017.

The California State Lands Commission (SLC) has adopted new rules on ballast water management and these will take effect in the State of California on 1 July 2017. These rules codify enforcement of the Californian Marine Invasive Species Act (MISA).

When calling at ports in the United States or sailing through US waters, it’s always important to remember that State laws may be in force as well as the federal USCG rules. These State regulations are usually more stringent than those set by the national government and carry different penalties.

Furthermore, the California MISA does not provide for an exemption for vessel deviation, whereas federal rules may allow this. The SLC clarifies this position in their letter of 2014 which can be read here.

Compliance with MISA is no different and US law firm Keesal, Young & Logan have issued an alert advising of the forthcoming rules.

The Californian Marine Invasive Species Act

The State rules apply to vessels over 300GT that are capable of carrying ballast water. The ballast water management requirements address:

1.  Vessels arriving in California Waters from a port or place outside the Pacific Coast Region.

2.  Vessels arriving in California Waters from a port or place within the Pacific Coast Region, with ballast water from the Pacific Coast Region.

The Pacific Coast Region (PCR) comprises the waters within 200nm of land on the Pacific Coast of North America east of 154°W longitude and north of 25°N latitude, excluding the Gulf of California.

California Ballast

The options on methods of compliance are as follows:

  • Retain all ballast water (no discharge)
  • Exchange ballast water by either the empty refill method (100% volumetric replacement) or flow through method (300% volumetric replacement):
    •  Vessels arriving from outside the Pacific Coast Region (‘mid-ocean’) – exchange to be carried out more than 200nm from land at least 2,000m deep
    • Vessels arriving from within the Pacific Coast Region, with ballast water from the Pacific Coast Region (‘near-coastal’) – exchange to be carried out more than 50nm from land at least 200m deep
  • Discharge ballast water at the same location where the ballast water originated
  • Use an alternative, environmentally sound, SLC or US Coast Guard-approved method of treatment
  • Discharge to an approved reception facility (none currently exist)
  • Under extraordinary circumstances, perform a ballast water exchange within an area agreed to in advance by the SLC

Penalties for MISA Violations

MISA authorises the SLC to pursue civil penalties which should not exceed US$27,500 per violation. The violations can be categorised as:

Civil Penalties for Improper Ballast Water Exchanges

The following classes of penalty apply for vessels that discharge ballast in Californian water and failed to carry out a ballast water exchange in accordance with MISA:


Civil Penalties for Improper Ballast Water Recordkeeping and Reporting

The regulations require vessels to maintain onboard ballast water management plans and records as well as the submission of Ballast Water Management Reports, Annual and Supplemental Technology Reports (relating to ballast water treatment system usage) and Hull Husbandry Reports (relating to anti-biofouling). The following penalties for violations of ballast water recordkeeping and reporting requirements apply:

Record Keeping

It is also important to note that the falsification of records and reports is punishable by up to one year in jail.

Ballast Treatment Performance Standards

In 2020, the Californian MISA will require strict – and quite possibly technically unachievable – ballast water treatment performance standards These are significantly more stringent in comparison to the USCG Final Rule and IMO International Ballast Water Management Convention:


The performance standards of MISA and the USCG Final Rule demand that the organisms must be dead, whereas IMO refers to viable organisms, which are not dead but unable to reproduce.

The Californian interim performance standards take effect on or after January 1, 2020 for newly constructed vessels or the first scheduled dry docking on or after January 1, 2020. The Final performance standard of zero detectable living organisms for all organism size classes is scheduled to be implemented on January 1, 2030.

The California State Lands Commission confirmed in their letter of July 2014 that they accept the use of either a USCG type approved ballast water treatment system or a USCG accepted alternative management systems (AMS) as an alternative to their stated ballast water exchange requirements. Reporting requirements still stand, however. The letter can be read here.

For further information read the alert from Keesal, Young & Logan.