Ballast Water Management Regulatory Framework
Because ballast water is a primary pathway for the transfer of non-native species around the world, understanding nationwide patterns of ballast water delivery and management is vital to preventing and mitigating the arrival of non-native species to US coastal ecosystems. To address this need, the National Ballast Information Clearinghouse (NBIC) was created at the direction of the National Invasive Species Act of 1996 (P.L. 104-332) as a joint program between the United States Coast Guard and the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC).
Currently, ships that have operated outside of the United States Exclusive Economic Zone must either retain their ballast onboard or undergo mid-ocean ballast water exchange. Additionally, all ship arrivals to US ports, from domestic or foreign ports of call, must submit a ballast water reporting form each time to the NBIC stating their ballast water management practices unless they operate exclusively within one US Captain of the Port Zones. The NBIC uses this information to quantify the amounts and origins of ballast water discharged into US coastal ecosystems and reports the quantities that have mid-ocean ballast water exchange prior to discharge. The results of the NBIC's analyses are reported to both the Coast Guard and Congress to inform their decisions about the effects of federal legistlation and regulations that address the issue of marine invasive species.
For more information on the regulatory framework surrounding ballast water management and the National Invasive Species Act, please see: