A reminder from Tall Ships America’s  Ship’s Operation and Safety Committee (SOS)- The deadline for comments on the EPA’s draft Vessel General Permit AND draft Small Vessel General Permit is Feb. 21, 2012. (see posting below for details)

We encourage member vessels to register your comments on the new Permits. The EPA is actively seeking input from members of the maritime community. It is the intention of Tall Ships America to post a comment requesting that Sailing School Vessels and Sub Chapter T and S sailing vessels be exempted from this permitting process.

Within the next 24 hours, a template letter will be sent to member vessels with suggested wording for the comment highlighting the concerns of Tall Ships America regarding this permit process and the effects it will have on our member vessels.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a notice stating that it is issuing two draft vessel general permits to regulate discharges from commercial vessels. The draft permits are intended to help protect the nation’s waters from ship-borne pollutants and reduce the risk of introduction of invasive species from ballast water discharges. The draft Vessel General Permit (VGP), covering vessels greater than 79 feet in length, is intended to replace the current 2008 VGP when it expires in December 2013.

The new draft Small Vessel General Permit (SVGP) would cover commercial vessels of 79 feet in length or less and would come into effect in December 2013.

Among other things, the VGP would include a numeric standard to control the release of non-indigenous invasive species that is generally consistent with the standard provided for in the IMO’s 2004 Ballast Water Management Convention. A public hearing will be held in Washington, DC on January 11 and a public meeting will be held in Chicago on January 23.

Written comments should be submitted by February 21, 2012. 76 Fed. Reg. 76716 (December 8, 2011). The topic is also addressed in the Fall 2011 edition of the EPA’s NPDES Vessels Program newsletter.