The Federal Maritime Commission has voted unanimously to accept a petition filed by the Lake Carriers’ Association (LCA) that alleges the ballast water regulations, as proposed by the Government of Canada, will discriminate against the U.S. flag vessel operators.
In accepting the LCA petition, the Commission voted to initiate an investigation of the specific allegations set forth in their petition, to gather information and to solicit public comments. Based on that investigation, the Commission will consider all options, statutory remedies, and sanctions that are available under Section 19(1)(b) of the Merchant Marine Act, 1920, as amended (Section 19), codified in 46 U.S.C. ch. 421.
The investigation will examine the detriment and harm to the U.S. flag fleet resulting from the proposed regulations.
The Commission has long been concerned about the proposed Canadian ballast water regulations and the effect it will have on the U.S. flag Laker fleet. These concerns have been expressed to Transport Canada in meetings and phone conferences for several years.
By accepting the LCA petition and initiating the investigation, the Commission is not making a current determination that the proposed Transport Canada regulations are discriminatory; however, if the LCA petition allegations are substantiated through the Commission investigation, then the Commission will be in position to act expeditiously.
Section 19 of the Merchant Marine Act, 1920, provides the Commission with authority to investigate and sanction discriminatory conditions caused by laws, rules, or regulations of foreign governments. If the Commission finds that such regulations result in conditions unfavorable to shipping in a U.S.-foreign trade, then Section 19 provides the FMC with several remedies that include: levying fines on vessels calling at U.S. ports, prohibiting vessel calls at U.S. ports, and restricting cargos that may be carried between the U.S. and the foreign country.
The Commission will publish a Federal Register notice in the coming weeks that will provide additional details about this Commission action.