The U.S. and Canadian federal governments, vessel operators, academic partners and others are collaborating in a number of areas to address environmental challenges associated with maritime transportation in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River. This includes investments, research, management practices, and new regulations in the following areas (see investments for additional background):

In order to improve fuel economy, reduce operating costs, and comply with emissions regulations, vessel operators in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Maritime Transportation System (MTS) have been investing in new vessels, new engines, emission treatment systems, and low-sulfur marine diesel fuel.

Canadian and U.S. agencies and shipowners are testing and evaluating ballast water treatment systems to meet the unique regulatory, environmental, and operational requirements in the MTS. Some shipping companies have proactively installed ballast water treatment systems on their oceangoing ships designed for operation on the Great Lakes. The Great Waters Research Collaborative at the University of Wisconsin-Lake Superior Research Institute is collaborating with the shipping industry to conduct research on ballast water management systems for potential use in the MTS.

The Ballast Water Working Group, with representatives from Transport Canada, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the U.S. and Canadian Saint Lawrence Seaway authorities, coordinates regulatory and compliance efforts for reducing aquatic invasive species (AIS) invasions via ballast water in the Great Lakes. This includes ballast water exchange at sea or retention of ballast water, among other requirements, for all vessels entering the MTS. Vessels that do not operate outside of the MTS must comply with voluntary management practices, such as regular inspections of ballast tanks and removal of accumulated sediment. The maritime industry has also instituted ballast water management practices to prevent the introduction or spread of aquatic invasive species.

Both Canada and the U.S. are updating their ballast water discharge regulations. In the U.S., the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act became law in December 2018 and directs U.S. EPA to set national standards for ballast water and directs USCG to implement and enforce the standards. Transport Canada has proposed updated ballast water regulations to give effect to Canada’s obligations under the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments.

The Green Marine program benchmarks the maritime industry’s environmental performance using 12 indicators. Participants must have their results verified by an accredited external auditor and agree to the publication of their individual results. Participants include shipowners, ports, terminals, Seaway corporations, and shipyards.