Great Lakes advocates push for
stricter water ballast rules
By Malia Rulon
WASHINGTON - Great Lakes advocates told lawmakers Thursday
that international standards designed to stop ships from
carrying invasive species into U.S. waters will take too
long to implement and aren't strict enough.
Members of two House Transportation subcommittees quizzed
Coast Guard representatives, environ-mentalists and industry
groups about what should be included in invasive species
legislation that is pending in Congress.
Rules approved last month by the International Maritime
Organization, an arm of the United Nations, would require
ships to exchange ballast water, which is used to stabilize
the vessels, in the open ocean to clear tanks of hitchhiking
organisms. They also would have to treat or filter any
water remaining in their tanks.
The international standards still must be approved by
30 countries and, if adopted, wouldn't take effect until
2009 for new ships and 2014 to 2016 for existing vessels.
"If we ratify the IMO convention, we ensure only
the status quo continuing. We urge Congress to do better,"
said Catherine Hazlewood, clean oceans program manager
for the Ocean Conservancy.
Dennis Schornack, chairman of the International Joint
Commission, which monitors Great Lakes programs, said
not doing anything means running the risk that another
species as destructive as the zebra mussel will end up
in the Great Lakes.
"The economic and ecologic risk is just too great,"
The zebra mussel was found in the Great Lakes in 1988
after apparently being carried in a trans-Atlantic ship's
ballast water, which was emptied in the lakes. It caused
millions of dollars in damage and since then has clogged
water pipes, ships and docks.
Ships carrying ballast water are required to exchange
it before entering the Great Lakes, but the mandate has
been ineffective because most ships entering the lakes
carry a large cargo and no ballast water. However, those
ships still can carry organisms.
Joseph Cox, president of the Chamber of Shipping of America,
said his group supports mandatory standards but the technology
isn't available to implement them immediately.