Hazardous material transport

Our waterborne commerce statistics page for Buzzards Bay shows that millions of tons of commodities are shipped through Buzzards Bay, principally through the Cape Cod Canal, but also in and out of the port of New Bedford. Some materials shipped in the United States are designated as “hazardous materials” or “hazardous substances.” However, the definition of a hazardous materials under federal regulations, is very specific and nuanced, and even differs among federal agencies, principally the U.S. EPA and U.S. Coast Guard.  Definitions sometimes differ in regulations covering different purposes. The U.S. Coast Guard regulates shipping, and their definition of hazardous materials relate to substances shipped in bulk. The U.S. EPA regulates the discharge of oil and hazardous substances to the surface waters under the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, irrespective of source and pathway.

For the Coast Guard, under 33 CFR 154.105 (Navigation and Navigable Waters), a “hazardous material means a liquid material or substance, other than oil or liquefied gases, listed under 46 CFR 153.40 (a), (b), (c), or (e).”   Under 46 CFR 152 (definitions):

Hazardous material means a liquid material or substance that is—
(1) Flammable or combustible;
(2) Designated a hazardous substance under section 311(b) of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (33 U.S.C. 1321); or  [discharge of oil or a hazardous substance
(3) Designated a hazardous material under 49 U.S.C. 5103. [Department of Transportation regulations on the transportation of hazardous material]

NOTE: The Environmental Protection Agency designates hazardous substances in 40 CFR Table 116.A. The Coast Guard designates hazardous materials that are transported as bulk liquids by water in §153.40.

In 46 CFR 153.40 (ships carrying bulk liquid, liquefied gas, or compressed gas hazardous materials), as shown below, under the “determination of materials that are hazardous”, there is a very detailed description of what is considered a hazardous material as summarized below, with [comments added in brackets]. Specifically, this regulation states that “Under the authority delegated by the Secretary of Transportation in 49 CFR 1.46(t) to carry out the functions under 49 U.S.C. 1803, the Coast Guard has found the following materials to be hazardous when transported in bulk:

                (a) Materials listed in Table 30.25-1 of this chapter.  [Comment: This table is actually a comprehensive list of all regulated commodities that are flammable or combustible when transported in bulk, and includes those not considered hazardous. Noxious liquids or substances (NLS materials) are designated by the symbol A, B, C, or D. For example, in this section, gasoline is listed, but in the pollution category column there is a notation that gasoline is considered an “oil.” Similarly, ethyl alchohol (ethanol), which is used as a gasoline additive and sometimes shipped in bulk, is classified as a “non-NLS.”]

                (b) Materials listed in Table 151.05 [Comment: This table shows bulk liquid hazardous material cargoes; and includes flammable materials from Table 30.25-1 in pollution categories A, B, or C. ]

                (c) Materials listed in Table 1. (Footnote 1) [Comment: See pollution category column in Table 1 to Part 153—Summary of Minimum Requirements.]

                (d) Materials listed in Table 4 of Part 154. [Comment: Cargo regulated under emergency jettisoning in the section on safety standards for self-propelled vessels carrying bulk liquefied gases.]

                (e) Materials that are NLSs under MARPOL Annex II.

                (f) Liquids, liquefied gases, and compressed gases, that are—

                                (1) Listed in 49 CFR 172.101;

                                (2) Listed in 49 CFR 172.102; or

                                (3) Listed or within any of the definitions in subparts C through O of 49 CFR part 173.

                (g) Those liquid, liquefied gas, and compressed gas materials designated as hazardous in the permissions granted under §153.900(c). (Footnote 2)

Footnote 1: Those hazardous material cargoes designated Category A, B, C, or D in Table 1 are also Noxious Liquid Substances under Annex II and the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships, 33 U.S.C. 1901 et seq.

Footnote 2: The Coast Guard continues to propose in the Federal Register any addition of these designated hazardous materials to one of the tables referred to in paragraphs (a) through (d).

How much waterborne commerce in Buzzards Bay contains hazardous materials?

The public database at the Waterborne Commerce Statistics Center does not allow for the easy conversion of chemical tonnage into hazardous material tonnage, so the answer to this question is not clear.  The issue is discussed at Hazardous Commodity Code Cross Reference File page on the WCSC website. The U.S. Departments of Transportation and Commerce published a Hazardous Materials Commodity Flow Survey in 2015 for the U.S., but the report does not report each state’s waterborne totals of hazardous materials.