to the Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes
and Other Matter, 1972
A significant milestone
for the protection of the marine environment was reached on 24 March 2006 with
the entry into force of the 1996 Protocol to the Convention on the Prevention
of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter, 1972.
The 1996 Protocol represents a major change of approach to the question of how
to regulate the use of the sea as a depository for waste materials in that,
in essence, dumping is prohibited, except for materials on an approved list.
This contrasts with the 1972 Convention which permitted dumping of wastes at
sea, except for those materials on a banned list.
The 1996 Protocol enters into force 30 days after ratification by 26 countries,
15 of whom must be Contracting Parties to the original 1972 treaty. The 1996
Protocol was adopted in November 1996 and will supersede (replace) the 1972
Convention "as between Contracting Parties to this Protocol which are also
Parties to the Convention". This means, in practice, that both instruments
will be in force in parallel for some time, but the momentum will gradually
shift to the Protocol as more and more parties ratify it.
The first Meeting
under the Protocol was held from 30 October to 3 November 2006, in conjunction with the
28th Consultative Meeting of the Parties to the London Convention.
One of the first key issues for discussion under the 1996 Protocol was a review of the compatibility of CO2 capture and storage
in sub-seabed geological structures, as part of a suite of measures to tackle
the challenge of climate change and ocean acidification.
and advantages of the 1996 Protocol
The 1996 Protocol reflects a more modern and comprehensive agreement on protecting
the marine environment from dumping activities than the original 1972 Convention
and reflects the broader aims to protect the environment in general, emanating
from Agenda 21, the global plan of action for sustainable development adopted
by the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED),
in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, also known as the 1992 Earth Summit.
The 1996 Protocol introduces (in Article 3) what is known as the "precautionary
approach" as a general obligation. This requires that "appropriate
preventative measures are taken when there is reason to believe that wastes
or other matter introduced into the marine environment are likely to cause harm
even when there is no conclusive evidence to prove a causal relation between
inputs and their effects." The article also states that "the polluter
should, in principle, bear the cost of pollution" and it emphasizes that
Contracting Parties should ensure that the Protocol should not simply result
in pollution being transferred from one part of the environment to another.
The 1972 Convention permits dumping to be carried out provided certain conditions
are met, according to the hazards to the marine environment presented by the
materials themselves. The 1972 Convention includes a "black list"
of materials which may not be dumped at all.
The 1996 Protocol is more restrictive. It states (in Article 4) that Contracting
Parties "shall prohibit the dumping of any wastes or other matter with
the exception of those listed" (in Annex 1 to the Protocol). These materials
waste, or material resulting from industrial fish processing operations
and platforms or other man-made structures at sea
inorganic geological material
material of natural origin
items primarily comprising iron, steel, concrete and similar harmless materials,
for which the concern is physical impact, and limited to those circumstances
where such wastes are generated at locations, such as small islands with
isolated communities, having no practicable access to disposal options other
The 1996 Protocol's geographical coverage is wider, as it also governs storage
of wastes in the seabed, as well as the abandonment, or toppling, of offshore
installations (Article 1).
Although the internal waters of a State are excluded from the dumping provisions
under both the Convention and Protocol, Parties to the Protocol have the option
to apply its rules to their internal waters if they wish (Article 7).
other international agreements
The Protocol contains better linkages with other international environmental
agreements which have been developed since 1972, for instance, through its ban
on export of wastes for dumping purposes (Article 6) in relation to the Basel
Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and
The 1996 Protocol is more pragmatic in its orientation towards commonly generated
wastes rather than contaminants. It is, therefore, more clear in what is and
what is not permitted for dumping at sea, making it easier for Administrations
Key provisions of the step-wise assessment procedure are included in Annex 2
to the Protocol. All permits and permit conditions have to comply with these
provisions. The Convention only referred to consideration of comparable factors
listed in its Annex III, without showing how these fit together.
The protocol places more emphasis on compliance than the Convention: has a Party
complied with the key provisions of the Protocol? How effective are its policies
to protect the marine environment?
Article 11 requires the Meeting of Contracting Parties, no less than two years
after the Protocol's entry into force, to establish those procedures and mechanisms
necessary to assess and promote compliance with the Protocol. The Meeting may
then offer advice, assistance or co-operation to Contracting Parties and non-Contracting
Parties. Initial work has already begun to develop these procedures and mechanisms.
The 1996 Protocol includes a transitional period provision (Article 26) assisting
new Parties towards gradually achieving full compliance over a maximum period
of five years (certain conditions apply).
Article 13 on technical co-operation and assistance requires Contracting Parties,
through collaboration with the Organization and in co ordination with other
competent international organizations, to promote bilateral and multilateral
support for the prevention, reduction and, where practicable, elimination of
pollution caused by dumping as provided for in the Protocol, to those Contracting
Parties that request it.
The tasks of the Meeting of Contracting Parties (Article 18) and duties of IMO
are better described than in the Convention. Unlike the original treaty, the
Protocol establishes clearly the depositary duties of the IMO Secretary-General
and spells out the Secretariat duties necessary for the administration of the
The Protocol includes arrangements for the settlement of disputes between Parties
in its annex 3, whereas the 1978 amendments to the Convention on the same issue
never entered into force.
Amendments to the Articles to the Protocol shall enter into force "on the
60th day after two-thirds of Contracting Parties shall have deposited an instrument
of acceptance of the amendment with the Organization" (IMO). Amendments
to the annexes are adopted through a tacit acceptance procedure under which
they will enter into force not later than 100 days after being adopted. The
amendments will bind all Contracting Parties except those which have explicitly
expressed their non-acceptance.
of wastes at sea
Incineration of wastes at sea was initially permitted under the 1972 Convention,
but this practice was ended in 1991 and is specifically prohibited by article
5 of the 1996 Protocol. Incineration at sea of industrial waste and sewage sludge
had already been prohibited under the 1993 amendments to the 1972 Convention.
to the 1996 Protocol
Adoption: 2 November 2006
Entry into force: 10 February 2007
Storage of carbon
dioxide (CO2) under the seabed will be allowed from 10 February
2007, under amendments to an international convention governing the dumping
of wastes at sea.
Contracting Parties to the London Protocol, at their first meeting held in London
from 30 October to 3 November, adopted amendments to the 1996 Protocol to the
Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other
Matter, 1972 (London Convention). The amendments regulate the sequestration
of CO2 streams from CO2 capture processes in sub-seabed geological
Parties also agreed that guidance on the means by which sub-seabed geological
sequestration of carbon dioxide can be conducted should be developed as soon
as possible. This will, when finalized, form an important part of the regulation
of this activity. Arrangements have been made to ensure that this guidance will
be considered for adoption at the 2nd Meeting of Contracting Parties in November
This means that a basis has been created in international environmental law
to regulate carbon capture and storage (CCS) in sub-seabed geological formations,
for permanent isolation, as part of a suite of measures to tackle the challenge
of climate change and ocean acidification, including, first and foremost, the
need to further develop low carbon forms of energy. In practice, this option
would apply to large point sources of CO2 emissions, including
power plants, steel and cement works.
The amendments, which will enter into force 100 days after adoption (i.e. on
10 February 2007), state that carbon dioxide streams may only be considered
for dumping, if: disposal is into a sub-seabed geological formation; they consist
overwhelmingly of carbon dioxide (they may contain incidental associated substances
derived from the source material and the capture and sequestration processes
used); and no wastes or other matter are added for the purpose of disposing
Convention website: http://www.londonconvention.org/
text of the 1972 Convention and the 1996 Protocol can be downloaded from the
London Convention website at: