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The Vessel Incidental Discharge Act (VIDA)

Vessel On October 26, 2020, EPA's Notice of Proposed Rulemaking - Vessel Incidental Discharge National Standards of Performance - published in the Federal Register for public comment. The proposed rule would reduce the environmental impact of discharges, such as ballast water, that are incidental to the normal operation of commercial vessels. When finalized, this new rule will streamline the current patchwork of federal, state, and local requirements that apply to the commercial vessel community and better protect our nation’s waters. Learn more about the EPA proposed standards.

The Vessel Incidental Discharge Act ("VIDA") (PDF) (175 pp, 566 K, About PDFestablishes a framework for the regulation of discharges incidental to the normal operation of a vessel under a new Clean Water Act (CWA) Section 312(p).  The VIDA intends to streamline the patchwork of federal, state, and local requirements for the commercial vessel community.

The VIDA applies to:

  • Commercial vessels greater than 79 feet in length; 
  • Other non-recreational, non-Armed Forces vessels, such as research and emergency rescue vessels; and
  • Ballast water only from small vessels (vessels less than 79 feet in length) and fishing vessels of all sizes.

The VIDA requires EPA to develop national standards of performance for incidental discharges (similar to the discharges in the EPA 2013 Vessel General Permit (VGP)) by December 2020. Two years after EPA publication of the final Vessel Incidental Discharge National Standards of Performance, the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) is required to develop corresponding implementation, compliance, and enforcement regulations for those standards, including any requirements governing the design, construction, testing, approval, installation, and use of devices necessary to achieve the EPA standards.

The VIDA also called for EPA’s Great Lakes National Program Office (GLNPO) to establish, in collaboration with other federal agencies, a Great Lakes and Lake Champlain Invasive Species Program (GLLCISP). To address one of the stated purposes of that Program, EPA teamed with the Maritime Administration (MARAD) and the Great Waters Research Collaborative (GWRC), a project of the University of Wisconsin-Superior’s Lake Superior Research Institute (LSRI), to research, develop, and pilot ballast water management systems for use by commercial vessels operating solely within the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain Systems. The five-year implementation plan for this research and development effort, supported by Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) funding, is available for review.

View more information on the interim requirements that apply until EPA publishes future standards and the USCG publishes corresponding implementing regulations.

View frequently asked questions on the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act.