Environment and pollution - MARPOL

News & Insights 29 June 2018


The International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) is the main international convention covering the prevention of pollution of the marine environment by ships from operational or accidental causes....

The International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) is the main international convention covering the prevention of pollution of the marine environment by ships from operational or accidental causes. The Convention mainly includes regulations that are aimed at preventing pollution from ships. The regulations aim to minimise both accidental and operational pollution. The Convention currently includes six Annexures which cover strict controls on a range of operational discharges.

The Convention was adopted on 2 November 1973 by the IMO. The Protocol of 1978 was adopted in response to a spate of tanker accidents in 1976-1977. The first version of the 1973 MARPOL Convention did not even enter into force before it was replaced by the 1978 version – the combined Conventions actually entered into force on 2 October 1983. In 1997, a Protocol was adopted to amend the Convention and a new Annex VI was added, which entered into force on 19 May 2005. MARPOL has been updated by amendments throughout the years since then.

Members are reminded that club cover for fines arising from breaches of MARPOL is discretionary. Given the well-known enforcement practices, particularly those of the USA, the huge penalties and the absolute requirement to have effective shore-side and on-board management systems, members should not expect the board to approve reimbursements of such liabilities, save in the most exceptional circumstances.

Annex I

The regulations for the Prevention of Pollution by Oil entered into force on 2 October 1983. Annex I covers the prevention of pollution by oil from operational measures and accidental discharges. These include, amongst others:

  • mandatory fitting of double hulls for new oil tankers (1992 amendments to Annex I);
  • survey and certification requirements;
  • certain regulations on equipment discharge;
  • other general requirements.

Annex II

Annex II refers to the Control of Pollution by Noxious Liquid Substances in Bulk and entered into force on 2 October 1983. The Annex includes, amongst others, provisions on:

  • discharge criteria and measures for the control of pollution by noxious liquid substances carried in bulk;
  • a list of 250 substances, the residues of which can only be discharged to reception facilities until certain concentrations and conditions are complied with.

It also includes the important provision that no discharge of residues containing noxious substances is permitted within 12 miles of the nearest land.

Annex III

On 1 July 1992, the Annex for the Prevention of Pollution by Harmful Substances Carried by Sea in Packaged Form was entered into force. The Annex contains general requirements for the issuing of detailed standards on:

  • packing, marking, labelling, documentation, stowage, quantity limitations, exceptions and notifications;
  • ‘harmful substances’, which are those substances identified as marine pollutants in the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code (IMDG Code) or which meet the criteria in the Appendix of Annex III.

Annex IV

The regulations for the Prevention of Pollution by Sewage from Ships entered into force on 27 September 2003. It provides guidance on the requirements to control pollution of the sea by sewage, which is prohibited except when:

  • the ship has an approved sewage treatment plant in operation; or
  • the ship is discharging comminuted and disinfected sewage using an approved system at a distance of more than three nautical miles from the nearest land.

All other sewage that is not comminuted or disinfected has to be discharged at a distance of more than 12 nautical miles from the nearest land.

Annex V

Annex V, which entered into force on 31 December 1988, regulates the Prevention of Pollution by Garbage from Ships. The Annex provides a list of different types of garbage and also provides guidance on:

  • the distances from land within which garbage may be disposed of;
  • the manner in which the substances may be disposed of;
  • an expressed, complete ban imposed on the disposal into the sea of all forms of plastics.

Annex VI

This Annex deals with the most recent and highly publicised amendment to the MARPOL Convention, the Prevention of Air Pollution from Ships, which entered into force on 19 May 2005. The amendment recently set limits on sulphur oxide and nitrogen oxide emissions from ship exhausts. The Annex also provides:

  • prohibition of deliberate emissions of ozone-depleting substances;
  • a definition of designated emission control areas, which sets more stringent standards for SOx, NOx and particulate matter;
  • a chapter as adopted in 2011 which covers mandatory technical and operational measures aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions from ships.

The club recently wrote an article on Annex VI in relation to sulphur reduction under Annex VI in the March 2015 edition of the Standard Bulletin.

Club cover

Shipowners and operators should already be well aware that environmental offences have a high profile and many authorities have punished MARPOL violations with harsh penalties.

The club has seen a general increase, not only in the number of fines for MARPOL violations (largely under Annex I), but also the level of fines. This is especially so in the USA, where numerous Annex I fines have run into the multimillions of dollars. In some cases, the perpetrators have even been imprisoned, including not only the officers and crew directly responsible for the MARPOL violation, but also senior managers of the company.

The 2007 Standard Bulletin provided an outline of MARPOL best practice. This has been summarised and updated in more recent publications, the most recent being our Standard Safety Bulletin in October 2014 in which the club highlighted the need for owners and operators to ensure that they have a company culture of ‘zero pollution’, promoted by the company CEO and senior management.

The club will continue to issue up-to-date articles and publications on MARPOL (including all its Annexes) for its members, including commentary on legal as well as safety and loss implications.

The information and commentary herein are not intended to amount to legal or technical advice to any person in general or about a specific case. Every effort is made to make them accurate and up to date. However, no responsibility is assumed for their accuracy nor for the views or opinions expressed, nor for any consequence of or reliance on them. You are advised to seek specific legal or technical advice from your usual advisers about any specific matter.

Categories: Cover Including Discretionary Claims, Pollution

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