Boats discharge many substances into the waters in which they operate. Some of them are pollutants. The EPA for decades has required permits for points sources that discharge pollutants. For 30 years, commercial vessels less than 79 feet in length and fishing vessels were exempt. That has changed.

Types of Discharge Regulated

There is more than one type of discharge that is regulated by vessel permits. some of the most common are:

Bilgewater – Vessels that weigh more than 400 tons gross and sail outside of territorial waters on a regular basis are not permitted to discharge bilgewater within one nautical mile of the shore.

Deck Wash Runoff – When cleaning the decks, all cleaners used on a vessel for this purpose must be non-toxic and phosphate-free.

Ballast Water – Discharging sediment from ballast water tanks is not permitted in U.S. waters as per Coast Guard regulations. All vessels with sediment and residual ballast water originating outside U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone waters must be flushed with saltwater. 

Corrective Actions

Any violation of discharge limits must be immediately met with corrective action by the offending party. An investigation must be run to determine the nature and cause of the problem and ways to eliminate must be developed.

Any discharge from a vessel in U.S. waters must be subject to the rules of vessel permits. This is essential to keeping the waters clean and safe.