H.R. 3618: Clean Hull Act of 2009

H.R. 3618

Clean Hull Act of 2009

November 17, 2009 (111th Congress, 1st Session)

Staff Contact

Floor Situation

The House is scheduled to consider H.R. 3618, on Tuesday, November 17, 2009, under suspension of the rules requiring a two-thirds majority vote for passage. H.R. 3618 was introduced on September 22, 2009, by Rep. James Oberstar (D-MN) and referred to the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which held a mark up and reported the bill by voice vote on September 24, 2009.

Bill Summary

H.R. 3618 would implement the terms of the International Convention on the Control of Harmful Anti-fouling Systems on Ships, which was agreed upon by the U.S. and 24 other nations in 2001. The Convention places limitations on the use of the organotin chemicals on the hulls of ships to prevent the build-up of biological organisms (algae, mollusks, etc.), known as "fouling."

Specifically, the legislation would ban any new application of tributyltin-based anti-fouling system and prohibit the use of organotin anti-fouling systems unless the vessel has an overcoating to prevent the organotin from leaking. The restrictions would apply to U.S. ships, any ship permitted to operate on the outer continental shelf, and any other ship in the U.S. waters. The restriction would not apply to military vessels of the U.S. or a foreign country if they were acting in a non-commercial capacity.

The bill would require any vessel over 400 tons that engages in international voyages to carry an International Antifouling System Certificate to prove that they were not using a tributyltin-based anti-fouling system. The certificate would be issued by the Secretary of the agency under which the Coast Guard is operating. Under the bill, a certificate issued by a country participating in the Convention would have the same effect as a U.S. certificate. The bill would allow the Secretary to determine a means to assess compliance through similar documentation for a vessel from any county that does not participate in the Convention.

H.R. 3618 would require ships 24 meters or longer, but less than 400 tons, to carry a declaration signed by the owner that the ship's anti-fouling system complies with the Convention. The bill would allow the Secretary to require vessels to hold other documentation if it is deemed necessary.

The bill authorizes the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to participate in a technical group convened under the Convention to consider additional controls on anti-fouling systems and to assess the effect of new restrictions. In addition, the Secretary of State would be required to convene a meeting of the Shipping Coordinating Committee to receive and record comments regarding anti-fouling system controls. The bill also requires the Secretary, the Administrator of the EPA, and the Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to undertake research on the scientific and technical activities undertaken pursuant to the Convention.

H.R. 3618 would prohibit the sale or distribution of any new anti-fouling system that uses organotin. The bill would prohibit any vessel from having any anti-fouling system that contains organotin unless the vessel has an overcoating to prevent the organotin from leaking. The bill gives the Secretary and the Administrator the authority to investigate and inspect vessels to certify their compliance with the legislation and the Convention.

The legislation establishes criminal and civil penalties for any person that knowingly violates the Convention of up to six years imprisonment and up to $37,500 for each violation and $50,000 each time an individual provides false information regarding anti-fouling systems. The fine would be limited to $5,000 for recreational boats in violation.



Vessel fouling occurs when algae and mollusks or other organisms attach to the hull of a ship. The mass created by fouling can slow a ship by adding weight to its hull and cause it to use more fuel than would otherwise be necessary. Anti-fouling has long been a priority of large, international vessels. In the 1960s, an effective anti-fouling coating was developed containing the organotin chemical tributyltin. Since the use of tributyltin became popular, large amounts of the chemical began to accumulate in oceans. According to House Report 111-331, tributyltin is the "the most toxic substance ever deliberately introduced into the marine environment." In 2001, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) produced the International Convention on the Control of Harmful Anti-fouling Systems on Ships, which was signed by the U.S. and 24 other countries. Countries involved in the Convention were required to prohibit new application of tributyltin anti-fouling systems, ensure that existing ships with tributyltin have it removed or coated over, and prohibit ships with tributyltin from entering their ports as of January 1, 2008.


According to CBO, H.R. 3618 would not have a significant effect on the federal budget because, "EPA costs (to enforce regulations regarding the manufacture and distribution of hull treatments that are harmful to the environment) and Coast Guard expenses (to enforce regulations on vessel owners or operators that use such treatments) would be minimal because the agencies already have enforcement responsibilities under the Convention."

H.R. 3618 may impose unfunded private sector mandates on ships with tributyltin anti-fouling systems, but CBO has not assessed the cost of such mandates because, "section 4 of the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act excludes from the application of that act legislative provisions that are necessary for the ratification or implementation of international treaty obligations."