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Frequent Questions: Technical Guidance for Determining the Presence of Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) at Regulated Concentrations on Vessels (Ships) to be Reflagged

Technical Guidance for Determining the Presence of Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) at Regulated Concentrations on Vessels (Ships) to be Reflagged (PDF) (103pp, 854K)

What is the purpose of this technical guidance?

Its purpose is to assist ship owners in determining whether their vessel contain regulated levels of Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) when requesting to reflag their vessel to a foreign country, prior to export from the United States. In general, the export of a ship with material that contains regulated levels of PCBs is illegal under the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) and its PCB regulations.

Why has EPA developed this technical guidance?

On June 27, 2011, the Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration (MARAD) published a Clarification in the Federal Register titled "Approval Process for Transfers to Foreign Registry of U.S. Documented Vessels Over 1,000 Gross Tons," (76 FR 37280). The Clarification states that requests to MARAD for transfer of their vessel to a foreign registry (i.e. reflagging) of U.S. flagged ships require vessel owners to self-certify, prior to reflagging, that "the vessel does not contain PCBs in amounts greater than or equal to 50 ppm". EPA has prepared this technical guidance document titled, "Technical Guidance for Determining the Presence of Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) at Regulated Concentrations on Vessels (Ships) to be Reflagged" to assist ship owners in determining whether their vessel contains regulated levels of PCBs prior to reflagging and to assist ship owners in completing the PCB self certification required by the MARAD Clarification.

What does the technical guidance cover?

The technical guidance contains information on the following:

What is the ship "reflagging process"?

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). A process called reflagging is when a ship changes from one country's ship registry to another country's ship registry.

Under 46 U.S.C. §56101, U.S. vessels of 1,000 gross tons and over require approval of the U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD) to be transferred to foreign ownership, flag and/or registry, i.e., reflagging.

EPA prepared “Technical Guidance for Determining the Presence of Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) at Regulated Concentrations on Vessels (Ships) to be Reflagged” to assist ship owners in determining whether their vessel contains regulated levels of PCBs prior to reflagging and to assist ship owners in completing the PCB self-certification when reflagging a vessel, as required by the MARAD Clarification.

What environmental concerns are there for ships going through MARAD’s reflagging process?

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 not only very toxic, but they are also persistent and bioaccumulative, which means that if PCBs are mismanaged overseas, they could reappear in the U.S. by moving through the food chain. Furthermore, PCBs on ships to be scrapped at a foreign facility could be mismanaged leading to exposure of PCBs to workers at a foreign ship scrapper. This technical guidance is designed to assist ship owners in identifying shipboard materials containing regulated levels of PCBs prior to reflagging, which the ship owner should then remediate or remove from the ship in the U.S. prior to reflagging and prior to export.

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.

What is the PCB 'self-certification' process for ships being reflagged?

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 U.S. Documented Vessels Over 1,000 Gross Tons”, (76 FR 37280).  The Clarification states that requests to MARAD for transfer to a foreign registry (i.e. reflagging) of U.S. flagged ships require vessel owners to self-certify, prior to reflagging, that "the vessel does not contain PCBs in amounts greater than or equal to 50 ppm". EPA prepared "Technical Guidance for Determining the Presence of Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) at Regulated Concentrations on Vessels (Ships) to be Reflagged" to assist ship owners in determining whether their vessel contains regulated levels of PCBs prior to reflagging and to assist ship owners in completing the PCB self certification when reflagging a vessel, as required by the MARAD Clarification.

What are the regulated levels of PCBs for export for disposal and continued use?

In the context of this technical guidance, "regulated levels of PCBs" refers to PCBs in concentrations greater than or equal to 50 ppm. The PCB self-certification process required by MARAD requires ship owners to certify to MARAD that PCBs in amounts greater than or equal to 50 ppm are not present on the vessel. Under EPA regulations, export for disposal of PCBs in concentrations greater than or equal to 50 ppm is prohibited (see 40 CFR 761.97), except when an exemption is granted by the EPA Administrator through a rulemaking. In addition, exports for continued use of PCBs or PCB Items having concentrations greater than or equal to 50 ppm without an exemption is generally prohibited under §761.20 in the PCB regulations, however, some exports for continued use of PCBs are regulated at concentrations less than 50 ppm. For the purposes of this guidance, the 50 ppm concentration is used as the test result threshold for PCBs. Please note that, if desired, this guidance, with the necessary modifications, can be applied to determine the presence of PCBs at a threshold other than 50 ppm.

Can EPA still inspect ships?

Yes. Nothing in the MARAD Clarification or the technical guidance alters EPA’s underlying inspection, information gathering, and enforcement authorities under TSCA in any way.

 


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