Forging partnerships for the environment

vessel examination team prepares for boarding

Coast Guard members receive instruction prior to conducting a joint port state control exam on the Hong Kong flagged cargo vessel in Hawk Inlet, Alaska. This exam is conducted in an effort to ensure foreign-flagged vessels operating in U.S. waters are meeting the safety and security standards issued by the International Maritime Organization. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Lt. j.g. Brierly Ostrander

The U.S. Coast Guard has been a maritime steward of the environment dating as far back as the 1820’s when the Revenue Cutter Service was assigned to protect timber reserves, used for shipbuilding, in Florida.

As operations and demands changed over the years, the Coast Guard has expanded its environmental protection services  including whale and rookeries protection, seal preservation, unauthorized substance discharge and ballast water regulations.

Checking Engine

Coast Guard inspectors conduct inspections aboard various commercial vessels to ensure the vessels meet environmental safety and maintenance regulations. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Tom Atkeson.

In more recent years, air pollution has emerged as a threat to our seas. Large marine vessels operating on or near our shores every day release stack emissions like nitrogen oxide that pollute our environment, oceans and atmosphere. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that without any further action, emissions of nitrogen oxide could double by 2030, growing to 2.1 million tons per year.

To combat this growing trend, the Coast Guard has partnered with the EPA to help monitor and enforce air pollution regulations for ships operating in U.S. waters. Under a new Memorandum of Understanding, the Coast Guard and EPA will perform inspections and investigations on marine vessels and take appropriate actions if violations are found.

emissions inspection

National Response Center contractor measures the hydrocarbon emissions from a damaged tank in Seattle, Wash. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Shawn Eggert.

“[The] agreement forges a strong partnership between EPA and the U.S. Coast Guard, advancing our shared commitment to enforce air emissions standards for ships operating in U.S. waters,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “Reducing harmful air pollution is a priority for EPA and by working with the Coast Guard we will ensure that the ships moving through our waters meet their environmental obligations, protecting our nation’s air quality and the health of our coastal communities.”

“This agreement demonstrates the Coast Guard’s long-standing commitment to protecting our nation’s marine environment,” said Rear Adm. Kevin Cook, director of Prevention Policy for the Coast Guard. “Aligning our capabilities with EPA enhances that commitment while minimizing the impact on shipping.”

Strengthening partnerships with other federal, state and local agencies helps ensure the Coast Guard continues to adapt and overcome challenges to the environment.

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