FMC Investigates Canadian Ballast Water Regulation for Unfair Trade Practices

The U.S. Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) has initiated an investigation into a recent Canadian regulation concerning ballast water management, which U.S. Great Lakes shipping industry leaders claim constitutes an unfair trade practice.

Canadian Ballast Water Regulation

The U.S. Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) has initiated an investigation into a recent Canadian regulation concerning ballast water management, which U.S. Great Lakes shipping industry leaders claim constitutes an unfair trade practice.

The FMC has raised concerns that the Canadian regulation, set to take effect in September 2024, could significantly disadvantage U.S. carriers operating in the Great Lakes. This regulation mandates that U.S. vessels installing ballast water in Canadian waters must use treatment equipment, even if the water will be discharged in U.S. waters. The FMC is investigating this under the authority granted by 46 U.S. Code, chapter 423, which allows the agency to address foreign shipping practices that adversely affect U.S. carriers.

Industry leaders in the U.S. Great Lakes shipping sector have praised the FMC’s decision. They argue that the Canadian regulation unfairly targets U.S. vessels, giving Canadian ships a monopoly on Great Lakes trade. Jim Weakley, president of the Lake Carriers’ Association, described the regulation as “severely biased,” accusing it of using environmental concerns to impose economic barriers.

The Great Lakes Maritime Task Force, representing a wide array of U.S. maritime interests, also supports the FMC’s action. Richard Hammer, General Manager of DonJon Shipbuilding and President of the Task Force, warned that allowing Canada to enforce this regulation would set a harmful precedent, undermining the competitiveness of U.S. maritime workers and companies.

Great Lakes labor unions, including the Seafarers International Union and the American Maritime Officers, echoed these sentiments, stating that the regulation is a blatant attempt by Canada to monopolize shipping on the Great Lakes and eliminate U.S. jobs. They assert that the Canadian government should not have the authority to regulate American vessels operating in U.S. waters.

The FMC, an independent federal agency, is tasked with ensuring fair competition in maritime trade. This investigation follows a similar inquiry in 2005, which resulted in the equalization of fees for U.S. and Canadian vessels using Canadian navigation services, correcting a disparity that had previously disadvantaged U.S. carriers.

As the FMC’s investigation unfolds, stakeholders in the U.S. Great Lakes shipping industry hope for a resolution that will protect their interests and maintain fair competition in the region.

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