While leaks play a major role in water pollution, unplanned discharges are also a serious problem. Under the EPA’s 2013 Vessel General Permit (VGP), all ships larger than 79 feet must use Environmentally Acceptable Lubricants in oil-to-sea interfaces when in the three Nautical Mile limit and in the Great Lakes unless technically infeasible. These regulations include vessel discharges such as oil, waste, water, and runoff. The permit also requires any above water line hull cleaning or deck wash downs resulting in discharge to be conducted with ‘minimally toxic, phosphate-free and biodegradable’ cleaners and detergents.
The 2013 VGP remains in effect until the 2018 Vessel Incident Discharge Act takes its place likely in the 2022-23 timeframe.