Joint Subcommittee Studying Economic Incentives to Promote the Growth and Competitiveness of Virginia's Shipbuilding Industry
April 24 , 2001, Norfolk
In its first meeting this year, the joint subcommittee received a progress report on research efforts to assist Virginia's shipyard industry in meeting state tributyltin (TBT) regulations. The joint subcommittee was also presented with information on current efforts to market and promote Virginia's shipyard businesses.
Removal of TBT from Shipyard Wastewaters
TBT is a toxic compound found in paints used on the hulls of commercial ships and other vessels. It is toxic to marine organisms even in very small concentrations. One way that TBT is discharged into Virginia's waters is when a ship is in dry dock and repairs are made to its hull. Before maintenance and repairs can be made to the hull of a commercial ship, the hull must be washed down to remove salt, slime, and the top layer of paint. It is the removal of this top layer of paint that causes TBT to be discharged into Virginia's waters.
In 1987, the Commonwealth began regulating TBT discharge by establishing a discharge standard of 50 ppt (parts per trillion). Even today, no technology is known or exists to consistently meet this standard.
To develop a technology for purposes of complying with state TBT regulations, Newport News Shipbuilding, Norfolk Shipbuilding & Drydock Corporation (Norshipco), and Colonna's Shipyard, Inc. established the Center for Advanced Ship Repair and Maintenance (CASRM). CASRM was formed to develop a commercially feasible process that can be used by Virginia's shipyard companies to remove TBT from shipyard wastewaters, in accordance with state TBT regulations. The Environmental Protection Agency, the Commonwealth, and Virginia's shipyard companies each have contributed significant sums in support of CASRM's TBT research and development.
CASRM has made significant strides in developing a technology to remove TBT from shipyard wastewaters. Between December 1999 and April 2001, CASRM has treated over 2,200,000 gallons of shipyard wastewaters. In doing so, it has developed a water treatment process that can remove 99.9 percent of all TBT in shipyard wastewaters. As a result, in many cases, CASRM's water treatment process has removed enough TBT such that the treated water has TBT levels below the 50 ppt maximum allowance. However, CASRM acknowledged that it cannot consistently meet the 50 ppt standard using its current technology.
Many shipyard businesses are operating under compliance orders that require them to comply with state TBT regulations in 2002. At this juncture, it is unclear whether CASRM can develop the technology to consistently meet state TBT regulations within this time frame.
The issue was raised as to whether CASRM has sufficient funding to complete its TBT research and development. Although an estimate was not provided to the subcommittee as to how much additional funding CASRM will need, it is possible that CASRM may receive an additional $900,000 from the Environmental Protection Agency.
CASRM's research and development efforts have been encouraging. While CASRM has been developing technology to remove TBT from shipyard wastewaters, this same technology has also been shown to remove several other pollutants from Virginia's waters.
Marketing and Promoting Virginia's Shipyard Businesses
The joint subcommittee was apprised of the tremendous growth in the usage of Virginia's ports. In 1982, 2.2 million tons of general cargo (clothes, shoes, etc.) flowed through Virginia's ports. In 2001, approximately 12.4 million tons of general cargo flowed through Virginia's ports.
The primary responsibility of the Virginia Port Authority is to market Virginia's ports to increase port business. It has employees all over the world acting to fulfill this responsibility. The Port Authority assured the subcommittee that it will continue to work with Virginia's shipyard businesses to promote and market use of Virginia's shipbuilding and ship repair companies as part of its general marketing of Virginia's ports.
Private industry also plays a role in marketing and promoting Virginia's shipyard businesses. As an example, the Hampton Roads Maritime Association and the South Tidewater Association of Ship Repairers, both nonprofit corporations, recently partnered to form a Ship Repair Committee to promote and market Virginia's shipyard businesses.
Finally, the subcommittee heard testimony that improvements will be made to Norfolk's piers to enable cruise ships to use these piers as an original point of departure. It is believed that this permanent presence will lead to more business for Virginia's shipyard companies.