Frequent Questions: Guidance for Determining Presence of PCBs at Regulated Concentrations on Vessels
The intent of the draft technical guidance document is to provide ship owners technical information to assist in identifying regulated levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) greater than or equal to (≥) 50 parts per million (ppm) in shipboard materials before their ships are transferred to a foreign flag registry, prior to export from the United States.
On June 27, 2011, Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Maritime Administration (MARAD) published a Clarification in the Federal Register titled “Approval Process for Transfers to Foreign Registry of US Documented Vessels Over 1,000 Gross Tons”, (76 FR 37280). The Clarification states that requests for transfer to a foreign registry of US flagged ships require vessel owners to self-certify that there are no regulated levels of PCBs on the vessel. The US Environmental Protection Agency has prepared this draft technical guidance document titled, “Draft Technical Guidance for Determining the Presence of Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) at Regulated Concentrations on Vessels (Ships) to be Reflagged” to assist ship owners who submit requests for reflagging.
The draft technical guidance contains information on the following:
- Making a statistically-based determination that a specified percentage of each potential use of PCBs present on a vessel, which is to be exported for continued use or disposal, is at concentrations less than (<) 50 parts per million.
- Direction on how to potentially determine the presence of regulated levels of PCBs on a vessel by using historical records, such as records related to the construction and maintenance of the vessel.
- Key decision points that would lead a ship owner toward a strictly non-sampling approach (strictly utilizing historical records), a targeted sampling approach, or a non-targeted sampling approach. The targeted sampling approach utilizes historical records to determine materials, areas, and/or parts of the vessel that do not contain PCBs and then sampling would be performed on the remaining materials, areas, and/or parts of the vessel. A targeted sampling approach may also be applied to verify the conclusions or findings reached after a review of historical construction and maintenance records. When there are no historical records to narrow the scope of the sampling, the non-targeted sampling approach may be applied, which only utilizes sampling to assess the presence of PCBs at regulated levels on the vessel.
Yes. In addition to requesting comments on the draft technical guidance document in its entirety, EPA specifically requested comments on:
- The approaches to:
- composite sampling,
- logical groupings (subgroup approach),
- cable sampling, and
- determining category population size for non-discrete items.
Full details on EPA’s request for comments (PDF) (3 pp, 16 Kb)
The comment period closed on March 31, 2013.
When a ship is documented and authorized under a country’s ship registry, the ship will fly the flag of that country (i.e. the ship is said to be flagged of that country). The reflagging process is when a ship changes from one country’s registry to another country’s registry.
Under 46 U.S.C. §56101, US documented vessels 1,000 gross tons and over require approval of the US Maritime Administration (MARAD) to be transferred to foreign ownership, flag and/or registry, in a process commonly referred to as reflagging.
Older ships frequently contain materials with regulated levels of PCBs. In general, export of these materials is illegal under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). PCBs are persistent and bioaccumulate, which means that if PCBs are mismanaged overseas, they could reappear in the US by moving through the food chain.
PCBs belong to a broad family of man-made organic chemicals known as chlorinated hydrocarbons. PCBs exhibit a range of toxicity and vary in consistency from thin, light-colored liquids to yellow or black waxy solids. Due to their non-flammability, chemical stability, high boiling point and electrical insulating properties, PCBs were used in hundreds of industrial and commercial applications including electrical, heat transfer and hydraulic equipment; as plasticizers in paints, plastics and rubber products; and many other industrial applications. Exposure to PCBs can cause a variety of adverse health effects in animals and humans. In animal studies, PCBs have been shown to cause cancer as well as serious non-cancer health effects. In humans, PCBs are potentially cancer-causing and can cause other non-cancer effects including immune system suppression, liver damage, endocrine disruption, and damage to the reproductive and nervous systems. See EPA's PCB website for more information on the health effects of PCBs.
On June 27, 2011, Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Maritime Administration (MARAD) published a Clarification in the Federal Register titled “Approval Process for Transfers to Foreign Registry of US Documented Vessels Over 1,000 Gross Tons”, (76 FR 37280). The Clarification states that requests for transfer to a foreign registry of US flagged ships require vessel owners to self-certify that there are no regulated levels of PCBs on the vessel prior to reflagging.
Owners of ships that potentially contain regulated levels of PCBs are responsible for compliance with TSCA. TSCA is a strict liability statute, which means, regardless of the approach used to determine the presence of regulated levels of PCBs on a vessel, if the vessel is exported with even one piece or component of the ship being greater than or equal to 50 ppm, the ship owner is in violation of TSCA. The TSCA PCB regulations do not require ship owners to seek EPA approval prior to reflagging.
Yes. Nothing in the MARAD Clarification or the draft guidance document alters EPA’s underlying inspection, information gathering, and enforcement authorities in any way.