The most important convention regulating and preventing marine pollution by ships is the IMO International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, 1973, as modified by the Protocol of 1978 relating thereto (MARPOL 73/78). It covers accidental and operational oil pollution as well as pollution by chemicals, goods in packaged form, sewage, garbage and air pollution.

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IMO and the Environment 2009

IMO's Intervention Convention affirms the right of a coastal State to take measures on the high seas to prevent, mitigate or eliminate danger to its coastline from a maritime casualty. The International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Co-operation (OPRC), 1990 provides a global framework for international co-operation in combating major incidents or threats of marine pollution. A protocol to this convention (HNS Protocol) covers marine pollution by hazardous and noxious substances.

IMO also has Secretariat responsibilities for the Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter (LDC), 1972, generally known as the London Convention, which has been updated by the 1996 Protocol.

The Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) is IMO's senior technical body on marine pollution related matters. It is aided in its work by a number of Sub-Committees.