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176 Concord Street, P.O. Box 22287, Charleston, SC 29413-2287
Contact: Erin Dhand, Manager, Corporate Communications and Community Affairs
Telephone: 843-577-8121 • Fax: 843-577-8127 • e-mail:


Ballast Water Issues

Charleston, SC - While ballast water is certainly an issue for ports all around the world, it is less of a problem for the Port of Charleston and the Global Gateway Terminal because of four reasons.

  1. Mandatory reporting will help find ways to reduce the risks of non-native species.
  2. In response to an Executive Order from President Clinton, the U.S. Coast Guard issued mandatory reporting guidelines in 1999 and encouraged open ocean ballast exchange, which is harmless. Ships entering U.S. ports from a foreign port must provide information on their ballast exchange to the U.S. government. The goal is to compile data to guide thoughtful and effective decision-making.

  3. National efforts to regulate the issue will take hold long before the first phase of the Global Gateway Terminal is operational.
  4. The data from mandatory reporting will be used to determine further guidelines by the deadline in 2002. While visiting Charleston last year, Admiral James Loy, who heads the U.S. Coast Guard, said they will carefully study this issue. In addition, the Ports Authority has encouraged the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources to participate in an international solution through the International Maritime Organization.

  5. Charleston is better positioned to reduce the impacts than other ports.
  6. There are a number of natural and competitive factors that reduce the risk of non-native species in Charleston harbor. As the fourth busiest port in the nation, Charleston has the world's largest and most modern ships. Containerships require less ballast than bulk ships, and the newer vessels require less ballast. Unlike the Great Lakes where ballast water has been a huge issue, Charleston harbor flushes regularly with the tides and is not a freshwater system. Finally, as mentioned in a report by DNR, most vessels calling Charleston have already called at other U.S. ports.

  7. The Ports Authority prohibits the exchange of ballast water at its facilities.
At its public facilities, the Ports Authority has a provision that prohibits the exchange of ballast water. The SPA's terminal tariff, which governs all vessels calling all SPA facilities, states in Rule 34-165, "Discharging ballast, rubbish or dunnage in the slips or channels is prohibited. No vessel will be allowed to discharge ballast at the facilities of the Authority. Vessels must obey all Authority, local, state, national and international environmental laws and regulations." All ships visiting SPA facilities are governed by this rule, and they and their agents are aware of its regulation.

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What is Ballast Water?

Ballast is water taken aboard all modern ocean-going vessels to achieve the required operating conditions. It is necessary to ensure the ship's stability and safe operation. Stones provided the world's earliest form of ballast, many of which were used in early cobblestone streets.

Ballast Not Bilge

Ballast water is NOT bilge water, or oily material discharge. There are very strict U.S. laws and international regulations surrounding bilge. Under federal law, unlawful discharge of machinery space bilge is prosecuted by the Department of Justice in Federal District Court. In fact, it is no longer legal anywhere in the world, either at sea or in port, to pump bilge directly overboard.

Efforts to Resolve the Ballast Water Issue