State Decision On Ballast Water Regulations Could Sink Oswego Port

OSWEGO, NY – Proposed new guidelines, aimed at keeping invasive species out of the Great Lakes may also keep commerce out of the area, many feel.

Local and state and federal officials banded together today (Oct. 7) vowing to fight for the future of the Port of Oswego Authority.

The port could be forced to close if New York moves forward to enforce unworkable rules governing the treatment of ballast water carried by commercial vessels on the St. Lawrence Seaway.

The government officials and marine industry executives gathered for a tour of the Port facility and to hear remarks from the port’s executive director and the administrator of the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation, an agency of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

They addressed the onerous new regulations, which would effectively block maritime commerce from transiting the St. Lawrence Seaway, cutting off access to and from American and Canadian ports on the Great Lakes.

The rules require that by Jan. 1, 2012, commercial vessels operating in New York waters must have ballast water treatment equipment that can meet a water quality standard 100 times greater than that established by the International Maritime Organization, an agency of the United Nations.

Additionally, vessels constructed after Jan. 1, 2013, must have equipment that meets a standard 1,000 times higher than international standards.

That would be the equivalent of trying to find 10 golf balls in a volume of water equal to 577 Empire State Buildings, according to the Oswego port’s director.

No technology exists anywhere in the world to achieve this goal.

These regulations inexplicably apply to all ships whether or not they discharge ballast water.

The marine industry has collaborated with the U.S. and Canadian governments to ensure strong protections against the introduction of invasive species.

All vessels entering the Great Lakes region must comply with the most stringent ballast management regulations in the world, according to the administrator of the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation.

Foreign vessels are required to pump out their ballast water while still at sea and flush any empty tanks with ocean water; the salt water destroys many of the invasive species, he added.

Since these rules were put in place in 2006, there have been no new discoveries of aquatic nuisance species entering the Great Lakes via ballast water.

“As the first U.S. port of call on the Great Lakes, the implications of these standards are disastrous. The port directly employs 100 people and has a wider annual economic impact of more than $6 million,” said Jonathan Daniels, executive director of the Port of Oswego Authority. “The Port of Oswego is one of the most productive ports in North America with nearly 150 vessels and more than 1.1 million tons of cargo moving through the port on an annual basis. Thirteen companies depend on the port as part of their domestic and international logistics chain. International clients and cargoes span the globe from Brazil and the Netherlands, to Russia and Indonesia. The thought of closing the port because our home state issued these regulations is inconceivable.”

This is an extremely important issue, not only for Oswego but the ports throughout the state and those in Canada, he added.

“We all want to protect our lake from invasive species that could impact our fish and wildlife tourism industries. But, these regulations go too far,” said Sen. Darrel Aubertine, who wrote the DEC immediately after the action was proposed and has been leading the efforts in the Senate to bring the DEC to work with shipping interests and commerce.

“The conditions imposed by this action are over-broad, and both economically and technologically unworkable. The end result of these regulations would be equal to shutting down the business that comes into our ports along the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario, impacting the jobs we depend on,” he continued.

As someone who grew up along the St. Lawrence River, the senator said he has a good understanding of the importance that the seaway, Lake Ontario and all the ports play in the economy.

“The bottom line is the success we enjoy here today needs to continue,” Aubertine said.
“I believe the stance the state and DEC have taken will ultimately prove counter-productive. I certainly support getting a handle on invasives. I certainly cannot support a plan that will, in my opinion, take us in the wrong direction.”

He said the problem needs to be addressed by more than just New York; cooperatively, with Canada, and other states.

Assemblyman Will Barclay agreed.

There has to be some compromise to find a plan that would help the environment and at the same time not hinder commerce.

“We have to keep the lines of communication open between the local and state government,” he noted. “There needs to be some moderation so we don’t crush this great institution that we have here.”

Terry Johnson, administrator of the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation, concurred.

“The benefits of the Port of Oswego cannot be taken for granted. After 400 years as a center of trade, commerce into and out of this port is going to come to an end in just 15 months,” he warned. “And, when we do things to the Seaway, we must also be mindful that it also impacts Canada.”

“As the people of Oswego and Central New York struggle to pull out of the recession, create jobs, and support their families, it is unfortunate that the NY Department of Environmental Conservation is working against them. I call on the State of New York to rescind these foolish regulations and work cooperatively with other Great Lakes states and the federal government to protect the environment without crashing the economy and putting more Americans out of work,” he continued.

Johnson added that he is “very, very impressed” with the job that Daniels has been doing at Oswego.

“About 80 percent of everything that we consume comes in via import, by water,” Johnson pointed out. “Maritime transportation is the most cost-effective means of moving goods. It is environmentally friendly.”

Because of the invasive species that have come in through the Seaway, some say it should be shut down, he said.

“If you did that, the goods and products that come in via the Seaway would take about two and a half million trucks to ship. Do you want another two and a half million trucks on the road?” he asked rhetorically.

Four years ago, the US and Canada put into place a set of regulations that help curb invasive species, he noted.

“For the last four years, there have been no invasive species coming into the Great Lakes via the Seaway,” Johnson said. “We’re proud of that record.

The Oswego port is located less than 300 miles from 60 million people.

“That’s a pretty decent consumer base,” Daniels said. “We’ve proven our worth as a business center. The importance of the facility today cannot be over-stated.”

To drive home the point, he summarized all the business that took place at the port during a recent one-hour period.

“It wouldn’t be a bad week for many ports,” he said. “But, this was occurring at the Port of Oswego in one hour.”

The proposed new regulations will effectively prohibit the operation of vessels in New York’s waters, cut off access to and from Canadian and US ports, Daniels said.

It could mean the closure of the St. Lawrence Seaway, Daniels said.

Nearly 100 direct jobs with a payroll in excess of $6 million annually and other in-direct jobs would be lost, he said.

The ripple affect will be felt by ports in Canada, Mid-West farmers, steel producers in Ohio and tourism and many others, he added.

Environmentally, it would take 870 trucks to replace one Seaway size vessel, he continued.


  1. National ballast water regulation would create jobs
    Manufacturing jobs are created where cost are lower. If international shipping was held accountable for water pollution and the carbon footprint caused, bringing foreign goods into our country, their cost would rise. The following is from a report prepared for congress in DEC 2009 “Although estimates of the costs of ballast treatment may be imprecise and vary from vessel to
    vessel, there is some general agreement on average costs.14 For example, it may cost an estimated
    $400,000 per vessel for modification of container/bulk vessels to use onshore ballast water
    treatment facilities at California ports. More generally, the cost of retrofitting vessels to treat
    ballast water has been estimated at between $200,000 and $310,000 per vessel for mechanical
    treatment and around $300,000 for chemical treatment.15 Most of this expense will be borne by
    foreign shipping companies, as the U.S. flag fleet is a small percentage of the global fleet,16 and
    likely passed along to consumers of products imported on these ships.”

  2. The best time to have enacted ballast water legislation was in 2008 when h.r.2830 passed the House 395-7 at the beginning of the global economic crisis when ship traffic, that is needed in economic globalization was curtailed. Unfortunately this administration chose to delay meaningful legislation with another study for a still purposed military plan of 20 plus years.
    Knowing a report prepared for Congress in 2009 stated that legislation calling for mandatory technology installation would increase the cost of foreign manufactured products, this administration made a conscious choice to not address the issue passing up the opportunity to again place America on a level playing field in manufacturing cost. Although some forms of economic globalization are inevitable and beneficial, globalization for economic reasons, at the expense of human health and the environment of future generations is nothing more than economic greed.
    In the millennium report prepared for the army in 2005-2006 detailing the military role with the environment it is made clear that international treaties are often thwarted by foreign countries and economic interest. Environmental issues are also cited as the cause of military conflicts. Sadly they also detail the governments policy will be to continue to follow the international communities lead, because of interdependency with foreign economies.
    This Administration Ocean initiatives policy states that all international treaties that have been ratified and those presently being adhered to will be honored. This means in its present form the ballast water provision in the International Law of the Sea treaty will apply for the waters of the United States at the Federal level. The millennium report also states that many problems exist with coastal countries and the provisions in international treaties.
    Fortunate for the environment, is pressure being applied by the individual states of our country enacting their own laws as a results of this administrations failure and the pressure of environmentalist, technology is now available to address ballast water.
    Unfortunately the continued failure of this administration to act with meaningful ballast water regulation has the shipping industry procrastinating on the economic investment to retrofit with technology quickly. As more shipping companies began to retrofit slowly the effect that logistics and cost would have to again create a cost competitive America will be forever lost, as human health and our environment continue suffering while waiting for an international solution or a purposed 20 year Coast Guard plan.
    Our Great Lakes are also in danger from terrorist attacks using ballast systems according to Homeland Security as stated on their own web site.
    Ships used exclusively on the Great Lakes should also be required for technology as it is now know from government studies that influenza, h1n1, bird flue, and mutations occur in FRESH water lakes and glacier and moved by birds. Ballast water should not facilitate this movement.

  3. Even though NY ballast water laws do not go into effect until 2012 (probably with a pass to delay installation if they can show they were not able) and our presidents national military delay plan not suppose to address the issue until sometime in the middle of 2011, shipping interest are already starting to put pressure on NY’s future governor to not implement the only meaningful regulations ever created that protect all the Great Lakes States equally. These regulations would prevent further destruction while also adequately protecting against human bacteria and virus. Those who hailed NY’S laws and believed, the huge expense endured by NY state as a results of this administrations failure to address ballast water with adequate regulation during these times of economic crisis may find once again just wasted tax dollars. We can only hope and pray Governor is not weak and caves in to the enormous political pressure that the lobby from the shipping industry is going to apply, as it has just started. The shipping industry has been out to kill state regulation from the beginning as was evident during their formulations when industry web articles referred to them as a “pipe dream”. They know as the military millennium report states, international regulations will be slow coming and easily disregarded.
    Unfortunately those who care about our countries environment, human health and the economic domination that foreign shipping has over our country because of globalization, will not be able to lobby with the economic clout that the foreign shipping industry has, and with our president and secretary of state being globalist, the pressure on governor Coumo will be enormous. NY laws are not just about NY or the Great Lakes, but they effect the economy of our whole country and are probably the last meaningful impediment to our presidents military plan coinciding with the global plan for ballast water. Without NY ‘S geographic position providing equal regulation, individual state laws of other Great Lakes States will not provide equal economic status between ports when dealing with foreign economic interest.

    When I started mailing letters to politicians several years ago the best advice I received was from a lady at the post office, who did not know the issue I was trying to address, but realized I was trying to work for “change”, she said “remember a politician will never do anything unless it benefits themselves” It will be interesting to see if Governor Coumo cares more about his career or real long term “change” for America. Regardless of what happens, being the President ask Governor Patterson to step aside environmentalist should remember Governor Paterson despite the cost, monetarily and politically, did the right thing for all Americans on the issue of ballast water.

    With 911 and The Department of Homeland Security acknowledging by their web site, their need to be involved with ballast water, Americans should have realized we need to “change” the way we do business in the world.

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