Prevention of Pollution from Ships
The Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) is the International Maritime Organization's major technical body concerned with the prevention and control of pollution from ships. It is aided in its work by a number of subcommittees. The Department participates in the work of the Committee and a number of the subcommittees. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) leads Australia's work in MEPC.
The most important convention regulating and preventing pollution of the marine environment by ships is the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL). The technical requirements of this Convention are included in six separate Annexes:
- Annex I - Regulations for the Prevention of Pollution by Oil
- Annex II - Regulations for the Control of Pollution by Noxious Liquid Substances in Bulk
- Annex III - Regulations for the Prevention of Pollution by Harmful Substances Carried by Sea in Packaged Form
- Annex IV - Regulations for the Prevention of Pollution by Sewage from Ships
- Annex V - Regulations for the Prevention of Pollution by Garbage from Ships
- Annex VI - Regulations for the Prevention of Air Pollution from Ships.
The legislation giving effect to MARPOL in Australia is the Protection of the Sea (Prevention of Pollution from Ships) Act 1983 and the Navigation Act 1912, and several Parts of Marine Orders made under this legislation.
MARPOL is regularly amended by MEPC. The text of the latest version of the Annexes to MARPOL and amendments to them is available on AMSA's website.
A description of MARPOL is available on IMO's website.
Annex I - Prevention of Pollution by Oil
Annex I allows for specific discharges of oil from tankers only when certain conditions are met. In addition, the maximum quantity of oil permitted to be discharged on a ballast voyage of oil tankers is limited and applies equally to both persistent and non-persistent oils.
Annex I also defines "special areas" which are considered to be so vulnerable to pollution by oil that oil discharges within them have been completely prohibited, with minor and well defined exceptions.
Annex I entered into force internationally on 2 October 1983 and for Australia on 14 January 1988. On 15 October 2004 MEPC adopted a revised version of Annex I which entered into force both internationally and for Australia on 1 January 2007.
The revised Annex I incorporates the various amendments adopted since MARPOL entered into force in 1983, including the phasing-in of double hull requirements for oil tankers. It also separates the construction and equipment provisions from the operational requirements and makes clear the distinctions between the requirements for new ships and those for existing ships.
Annex II - Prevention of Pollution by Noxious Liquid Substances in Bulk
Annex II details discharge criteria and measures for the control of pollution by noxious liquid substances carried in bulk.
Annex II regulates the discharge of the residues of about 250 substances. The discharge of their residues is allowed only to reception facilities unless certain concentrations and conditions (which vary with the category of substances) are complied with.
No discharge of residues containing noxious substances is permitted within 12 nautical miles of the nearest land. More stringent restrictions apply to special areas.
Annex II entered into force internationally on 6 April 1987 and for Australia on 14 January 1988.
On 15 October 2004 MEPC adopted a revised version of Annex II which entered into force both internationally and for Australia on 1 January 2007.
The revised Annex II includes a new four-category categorization system for noxious and liquid substances. In addition, improvements in ship technology, such as efficient stripping techniques, have made possible significantly lower permitted discharge levels of certain products.
Annex III - Prevention of Pollution by Harmful Substances Carried by Sea in Packaged Forms
Annex III contains general requirements for the issuing of detailed standards on packing, marking, labelling, documentation, stowage, quantity limitations, exceptions and notifications for preventing pollution by harmful substances.
Annex III entered into force internationally on 1 July 1992 and for Australia on 10 January 1995.
Annex IV - Prevention of Pollution by Sewage from Ships
Annex IV deals with the discharge of sewage into the sea, ships' equipment and systems for the control of sewage discharge, the provision of facilities at ports and terminals for the reception of sewage, and requirements for survey and certification.
It is generally considered that on the high seas, the oceans are capable of assimilating and dealing with raw sewage through natural bacterial action and therefore the regulations in Annex IV of MARPOL prohibit ships from discharging sewage within a specified distance of the nearest land, unless they have in operation an approved treatment plant.
Annex IV entered into force internationally on 27 September 2003 and for Australia on 27 May 2004. A revised Annex IV was adopted on 1 April 2004 and entered into force on 1 August 2005.
Annex V - Prevention of Pollution by Garbage from Ships
Annex V 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. The Annex imposes a complete ban on the dumping into the sea of all forms of plastic.
Annex V entered into force internationally on 31 December 1988 and for Australia on 14 November 1990.
Annex VI - Prevention of Air Pollution from Ships
The Annex sets limits on the emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) from marine diesel engines, requires ships to avoid using fuel with sulphur content exceeding 4.5% by mass, prohibits deliberate emissions of ozone depleting substances, and prohibits the incineration of certain products on board ships. Furthermore, if a ship is within a sulphur oxides (SOx) Emission Control Area, it has to use a fuel with a sulphur content not exceeding 1.5% by mass, or an exhaust gas cleaning system or any other approved apparatus to limit SOx emissions.
From 1 January 2012, the global sulphur cap shall be 3.5% and is scheduled to decrease to 0.5% from 1 January 2020. However, the 2020 decrease is subject to a feasibility review to be completed by the IMO no later than 2018, which shall consider among other issues, the availability of compliant fuel. The sulphur limit in SOx Emission Control Areas shall be 1.0% from 1 July 2010 and shall decrease to 0.1% from 1 January 2015.
Reductions in NOx emissions from marine engines also form part of the revised Annex VI.