Prevention of Pollution by Harmful Substances Carried by Sea in Packaged Form

Regulations for the Prevention of Pollution by Harmful Substances Carried by Sea in Packaged Form are contained in Annex III of MARPOL 73/78.

The Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) at its 55th session in October 2006 adopted the revised MARPOL Annex III Regulations for the prevention of pollution by harmful substances carried by sea in packaged form. The Annex has been revised to harmonize the regulations with the criteria for defining marine pollutants which have been adopted by the UN Transport of Dangerous Goods (TDG) Sub-Committee, based on the United Nations Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS).

The regulations were developed in order to identify marine pollutants so that they could be packed and stowed on board ship in such a way as to minimise accidental pollution as well as to aid recovery by using clear marks to distinguish them from other (less harmful) cargoes.

The rules on discharging harmful goods are straightforward: "Jettisoning of harmful substances carried in packaged form shall be prohibited, except where necessary for the purpose of securing the safety of the ship or saving life at sea".

The Annex states that "appropriate measures based on the physical, chemical and biological properties of harmful substances shall be taken to regulate the washing of leakages overboard, provided that compliance with such measures would not impair the safety of the ship and persons on board." (MARPOL Annex III, Regulation 7 (1))

The Annex applies to all ships carrying harmful substances in packaged form, or in freight containers, portable tanks or road and rail tank wagons.

The regulations require the issuing of detailed standards on packaging, marking, labelling, documentation, stowage, quantity limitations, exceptions and notifications, for preventing or minimizing pollution by harmful substances.

However, implementation of the Annex was initially hampered by the lack of a clear definition of harmful substances carried in packaged form. This was remedied by amendments to the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code (IMDG Code) to include marine pollutants.

The IMDG Code was first adopted by IMO in 1965 and lists hundreds of specific dangerous goods together with detailed advice on storage, packaging and transportation. The amendments extending the Code to cover marine pollutants, which entered into force in 1991, added the identifier "marine pollutant" to all substances classed as such. All packages containing marine pollutants must be marked with a standard marine pollutant mark.

Annex III of MARPOL was also amended at the same time, to make it clear that "harmful substances are those substances which are identified as marine pollutants in the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code (IMDG Code)." (Regulation 1).

Annex III is optional so that States who sign up to MARPOL 73/78 Annexes I and II are not required to adopt the Annex at the same time. Annex III received sufficient ratifications by 1991 and entered into force on 1 July 1992.