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Marine Propulsion & Auxiliary Machinery

Marine Propulsion & Auxiliary Machinery

USCG type-approvals: Confusion? What confusion?

Wed 11 Apr 2018 by Paul Gunton

USCG type-approvals: Confusion? What confusion?

Confusion surrounds latest USCG type-approval submissions’ was the headline I gave to a news item last week. It recorded applications from JFE Engineering Corp, for its BallastAce system, and Panasia’s GloEn-Patrol. Yet I knew of two others that pre-dated both of those: Wärtsilä’s Aquarius EC BWMS and another that I have been advised of off-the-record, which involves a variation on one of the existing USCG type-approved systems. Why were they not on the list of new applications?

Before I answer that, I will tell you that I have a new best friend. She is Lt Amy Midgett of the US Coast Guard and she edits its Maritime Commons online blog that I am sure most Marine Propulsion readers follow for updates on its approach to ballast water treatment and much else besides. She replied patiently to my many emails during the past week in connection with this question and with my work on our annual Ballast Water Treatment Technology guide. Thanks, Amy.

As far as Wärtsilä’s application, which it announced on 29 March, she said that USCG’s Marine Safety Center (MSC) “only announces receipt of initial applications for type-approval once the application has been confirmed to be complete.” That was on 6 April. As I write this, on 10 April, there has been no further announcement on Amy’s blog and it is not clear – to me – what the MSC believes is lacking. Wärtsilä Marine Solutions’ sales director for ballast water management systems, Craig Patrick, told me he had asked the USCG for clarity about the situation.

As for the other application, the MSC “does not announce requests for changes to an approved system,” she said. So there will only be an announcement on Maritime Commons when an amended certificate is approved and issued.

So that’s how it works and I’ll know better next time.

But is this enough? If I were in the market for a BWMS I would like to know whenever an application is made, even if the MSC were still seeking further material. It would not be difficult to add another status level, such as ‘Received, under review’, to the current alternatives of ‘Pending’ and ‘Approved’. And when an application is made for a modified version of a type-approved system, I would like to know about that, too.

And I think manufacturers would like potential customers to know as soon as they step onto the USCG’s threshold. A glance at the MSC's ballast water webpage shows that it has expanded the material it makes available to improve transparency about type-approval applications. You can download type-approval certificates, for example, and the response letters explaining why it denied requests from the four manufacturers that had relied on the MPN testing method – so I invite the USCG to consider my proposal as another step in the journey towards greater transparency.

• Would you welcome this additional information? If so, what decisions would it influence in your business? Email me at

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