The International Convention for the Prevention

 of Pollution of Ships, 1973  (MARPOL 73/78)

Summary  [Top]

The International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution of Ships, 1973 was adopted in 1973. This Convention was subsequently modified by the Protocol 1978 relating thereto, which was adopted in 1978. The Protocol introduced stricter regulations for the survey and certification of ships. It is to be read as one instrument and is usually referred to as MARPOL 73/78.
Exxon Valdez, Alaska USA 1989
This IMO Convention is the most important global treaty for the prevention of pollution from the operation of ships; it governs the design and equipment of ships; establishes system of certificates and inspections; requires states to provide reception facilities for the disposal of oily waste and chemicals. It covers all the technical aspects of pollution from ships, except the disposal of waste into the sea by dumping, and applies to ships of all types, although it does not apply to pollution arising out of the exploration and exploitation of sea-bed mineral resources.
Kuroshima, Alaska USA 1997
Regulations covering the various sources of ship-generated pollution are contained in the six Annexes of the London Convention and are updated regularly. Annexes I and II, governing oil and chemicals are compulsory but annexes III, IV, V and VI on packaged materials, sewage, garbage and air pollution are optional.

Photographs on this page from the Government of British Columbia,

The New Carrissa, Oregon USA, 1999

Annex I: Regulations for the Prevention of Pollution by Oil  [Top]

Entry into force: 2 October 1983
Details the discharge criteria and requirements for the prevention of pollution by oil and oily substances. It maintains predominantly the oil discharge criteria prescribed in the 1969 amendments to the 1954 Oil Pollution Convention. Beside technical guidelines it contains the concept of "special areas" which are considered to be vulnerable to pollution by oil. Discharges of oil within them have been completely prohibited, with minor well-defined exceptions.

Annex II: Regulations for the Control of Pollution by Noxious Liquid Substances in Bulk  [Top]

Entry into force: 6 April 1987
Details the discharge criteria and measures for the control of pollution by noxious liquid substances carried in bulk. It subdivides substances into and contains detailed operational standards and procedures. Some 250 substances were evaluated and included in the list appended to the London Convention. The discharge of their residues is allowed only to reception facilities until certain concentrations and conditions (which vary with the category of substances) are compiled with. In any case, no discharge of residues containing noxious substances is permitted within 12 miles of the nearest land. More stringent restrictions apply to "special areas".

Annex III: Regulations for the Prevention of Pollution by Harmful Substances Carried by Sea in Packaged Form  [Top]

Entry into force: 1 July 1992
Contains general requirements for the issuing of detailed standards on packing, marking, labeling, documentation, stowage, quantity limitations, exceptions and notifications for preventing pollution by harmful substances. The Annex should be implemented through the International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code, which has been amended to include marine pollutants. The amendments entered into force on 1 January 1991.

Annex IV: Regulations for the Prevention of Pollution by Sewage from Ships  [Top]

Entry into force: 27 September 2003". Contains requirements to control pollution of the sea by sewage from ships.

Annex V: Regulations for the Prevention of Pollution by Garbage from Ships  [Top]

Entry into force: 31 December 1988

This deals with different types of garbage and specifies the distances from land and the manner in which they may be disposed of. The requirements are much stricter in a number of "special areas" but perhaps the most important feature of the Annex is the complete ban imposed on the dumping into the sea of all forms of plastic.

Annex VI: Regulations for the Prevention of Air Pollution from Ships and NOx Technical Code  [Top]

Entry into force: 19 May 2005.
Contains requirements to control the air pollution from ships, including the emission of ozone-depleting substances, Nitrogen Oxides (NOx), Sulphur Oxides (SOx), Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and shipboard incineration. It also establishes requirements for reception facilities for wastes from exhaust gas cleaning systems, fuel oil quality, for off-shore platforms and drilling rigs and for the establishment of SOx Emission Control Areas (SECAs).

Revised: February 24, 2006.

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