The working group’s report said
aggressive enforcement of current
regulations, the high industry
compliance rate and the new federal ballast water discharge standard
should be seen as minimizing the
urgency for state involvement in
ballast water regulation.
The St. Lawrence Seaway is
uniquely situated to prevent the
further introduction of invasive
With a central inspection point,
located outside of the Great Lakes,
the ballast water tanks of all
inbound vessels are inspected by
both Canada and the United States.
Joint vessel inspections by Transport Canada, the Coast Guard, and
the U.S. and Canadian Seaway
Corporations have been regularly
conducted in Montreal.
This inspection process, in place
since 1997, has been successful in
enhancing the operational and
environmental security of the
Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway System. Improvements are
continually being made to the inspection programs to
incorporate updated procedures and new technologies.
All four agencies work cooperatively to address issues
as they arise.
The seaway regulation harmonizes the ballast water
requirements for vessels transiting the U.S. waters of
the seaway with those required by Transport Canada
for transit in waters under Canadian jurisdiction. The
group coordinates and manages implementation of
three sets of Ballast Water Regulations, providing effective control against the introduction of aquatic invasive species.
Still, other contaminants from vessels or the cargo
they are carrying, including oil and petroleum products, coal and other minerals, chemicals and industrial
waste, can pose a threat to the Great Lakes ecosystem.
“Oil spills are a concern and they happen, largely, in
heavily trafficked areas around major cities, such as
Detroit,” said Binko, whose office at the Ninth
District’s Cleveland headquarters overlooks Lake Erie.
The Great Lakes have not seen spills anywhere near
the scale of the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf
of Mexico in 2010, but they do have smaller ones due to
industrial production, commercial ship traffic and the
4. 6 million recreational boaters who zip up and down the
waterways during the spring and summer months.
PORTS OF INDIANA
The German tanker ship Sloman Herakles delivers 12,860 tons of liquid fertilizer to the Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor on Lake Michigan April 2 after arriving
via the St. Lawrence Seaway following a voyage from the Baltic Sea region.
Vessels bound for the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway from outside
the Exclusive Economic Zone receive ballast management exams on each seaway transit as the Coast Guard, working with local and Canadian partners,
strives to protect the water quality and ecosystem of the Great Lakes.
“Because of the number of rec vessels on the Great
Lakes, we see a lot more spills, although smaller in
size, near marinas, places like that,” Binko said.
The number of spills per year depends on a number
of factors that are largely attributed to the weather. In
2006, the Coast Guard responded to a decade-low 203
spills. In 2012, that number jumped to 375, due mainly to boats that sank as a result of the remnants of
Superstorm Sandy last fall.
In July, members from the Ninth District’s advisory
team attended a National Contingency Plan with other
government agencies where they discussed oil spill
cleanup techniques and potential new methods for
cleanup and prevention.
Because the lakes include 10,900 miles of U.S. and
Canadian coastline, the distance presents some challenges in getting immediate response to spills. In order
to combat this, the service has response trailers prepositioned throughout the district with containment
booms and cleanup material that makes it easier to
more quickly respond to a spill.
Lt. Mary Hoffman, an environmental specialist with
the Ninth Coast Guard District advisory team, said that
in terms of pollution, the Great Lakes are cleaner than
waters of other parts of the country.
“We are lucky in regard to that,” she said. ■