MARPOL is the main international convention aimed at the prevention of pollution from ships caused by operational or accidental causes. It was adopted at the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in 1973. The Protocol of 1978 was adopted in response to a number of tanker accidents in 1976–1977. The 1978 Protocol was absorbed into the parent Convention and the combined instrument entered into force in 1983. In 1997, a Protocol was adopted to amend the Convention and a new Annex VI was added, which came into force in May 2005. The technical requirements of MARPOL 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—Prevention of Pollution by Harmful Substances Carried in Sea in Packaged Form
- Annex IV—Prevention of Pollution by Sewage from Ships
- Annex V—Prevention of Pollution by Garbage from Ships
- Annex VI—Prevention of Air Pollution from Ships
Amendments are made periodically through the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) of IMO. The text of the latest version of the Annexes to MARPOL and amendments to them is available on the Australian Maritime Safety Authority's (AMSA"s) website. Along with AMSA, the Department regularly attends MEPC meetings.
In Australia, MARPOL is given effect domestically through the Protection of the Sea (Prevention of Pollution from Ships) Act 1983 and the Navigation Act 2012.