Prevention of pollution by oil (MARPOL Annex I)

MARPOL Annex I is the main source of international rules and standards to prevent oil pollution from ships. It contains regulations designed to reduce the risk of pollution resulting from accidents, such as by requirements for oil tankers to be constructed with double hulls, as well as rules to control intentional operational discharges of oil or oily wastes.

In the absence of adequate reception facilities in ports worldwide it has remained necessary for ships to undertake, and international law to allow, operational discharges of oily wastes at sea. The operational discharge controls of MARPOL Annex I apply not only to oil tankers, in respect of their cargo tank washings and ballast operations, but to all types of vessel in respect of oily wastes from their machinery spaces. They include requirements for ships to be equipped with oil filtering equipment (oily water separators) and for details of various shipboard operations to be entered in an oil record book.

Instances have continued to occur of the discharge controls being breached either by accident (e.g. through malfunction of oil filtering equipment) or illicitly (e.g. when so-called “magic pipes” have been fitted by ships’ engineers to bypass filtering equipment and accelerate a process which is often time-consuming and laborious). Deliberate discharges in violation of MARPOL have continued to be detected, and prosecuting authorities have identified the absence of a systematic approach to identifying and managing compliance with MARPOL as a factor contributing to shipboard non-compliance.

Control of pollution by noxious liquid substances in bulk (MARPOL Annex II)

Annex II applies to all ships carrying “noxious liquid substances” (NLS) in bulk. The appendices set out the procedures, equipment, materials and measures that are applicable to these ships.

Prevention of pollution by harmful substances carried in packaged forms (MARPOL Annex III)

Annex III contains regulations which apply to all ships carrying harmful substances in packaged form. For these purposes “harmful substances” are defined as those substances which are identified as marine pollutants in the International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code.

Prevention of pollution by sewage from ships (MARPOL Annex IV)

Annex IV contains regulations for the prevention of pollution by sewage from ships. Sewage is defined to mean drainage and other wastes from any form of WC, together with drainage from medical premises, and from spaces containing living animals, as well as other waste waters when mixed with these drainages.

Prevention of pollution by garbage from ships (MARPOL Annex V)

Annex V contains regulations to prevent pollution from ships by “garbage”, defined as “all kinds of victual, domestic and operational waste excluding fresh fish and parts thereof, generated during the normal operation of the ship and liable to be disposed of continuously or periodically

The regulations prohibit the disposal at sea of all plastics, including synthetic ropes, fishing nets and plastic garbage bags. The disposal of other garbage must be made as far as practicable from the nearest land and is prohibited within certain distances from the shore in the case of certain specified wastes.

Prevention of air pollution from ships (MARPOL Annex VI)

The main sources of air pollution from ships are sulphur and nitrogen oxides, particulate matter and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). Sulphur emissions have been shown to affect human health and to cause the acidification of ground water. Nitrogen emissions from ships also have an effect on air quality, with a corresponding detriment to health. Particulate matter is produced by diesel engines on ships as part of their emissions and has been shown to be related to various health issues in humans. Particulates are also a factor in climate change as they can modify cloud formation and alter the transmission of sunlight through the atmosphere.

MARPOL Annex VI is the product of IMO work to establish measures for the prevention of air pollution from ships as well as to contribute to the reduction of global air pollution.

The Annex establishes detailed requirements for the control of emissions of four general classes of substances, namely ozone depleting substances, nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulphur oxides (SOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).