MARPOL: 50 Years of Maritime Environmental Protection

As we embrace the theme of World Maritime Day 2023 – ‘MARPOL at 50 – Our commitment goes on’ – we delve into the rich legacy of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in safeguarding our oceans. This year sees the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL), the primary global treaty for the prevention of pollution of the marine environment by ships from intentional, operational or accidental causes. This article sheds light on the pivotal role this landmark treaty plays in protecting our marine environment.

The MARPOL Annexes 1 to 6

The MARPOL Convention contains six technical annexes:

MARPOL Annex I – Prevention of pollution by oil

Entered into force: 2 October 1983

Double hulls prevent oil spills – MARPOL Annex I requires oil tankers to have a double hull, creating a protective space in the event of an accident.

Oil residues control – Every ship of 400 gross tonnage and above needs to be provided with a tank or tanks of adequate capacity to receive oil residues (sludge) which cannot be dealt with otherwise, such as those from the purification of fuel and lubricating oils and oil leakages in machinery spaces.

Oil spills reduced – Thanks to MARPOL – and other measures adopted by IMO – the number of oil spills from tankers has declined significantly since the 1970s.

MARPOL Annex II – Control of Pollution by Noxious Liquid Substances in Bulk

Entered into force: 2 October 1983

Preventing pollution by potentially harmful liquids carried in bulk – MARPOL Annex II sets discharge and tank cleaning standards for liquids carried on ships in bulk, such as vegetable oils and chemicals.

Categorizing noxious liquid cargoes – MARPOL Annex II sets discharge standards for products categorized from X to Z: X – Major hazard Y – Hazard Z – Minor hazard

MARPOL Annex III – Prevention of Pollution by Harmful Substances Carried by Sea in Packaged Form

Entered into force: 1 July 1992

Safe packaging prevents pollution – MARPOL Annex III sets rules for packing, labelling and storing of harmful substances carried in packaged form, to minimize damage to the marine environment in case of an accident or emergency.

Clear labelling for marine pollutants – Any packaged goods must be carried in line with MARPOL Annex III and the International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code. If the product is harmful, the label must state “MARINE POLLUTANT”.

MARPOL Annex IV – Prevention of Pollution by Sewage from Ships

Entered into force: 27 September 2003

Sewage control on ships – MARPOL Annex IV prohibits the disposal of any sewage at sea when the ship is within 3 nautical miles from shore or within special areas.

MARPOL Annex V – Prevention of Pollution by Garbage from Ships

Entered into force: 31 December 1988

Stopping marine litter – MARPOL Annex V prohibits ships from discharging garbage into the sea. Ships must have a garbage management plan, and must store garbage and dispose of it in port reception facilities.

Port reception facilities – MARPOL Annexes require member states to provide adequate port reception facilities for wastes generated during the normal operation of ships visiting their ports.

MARPOL Annex VI – Prevention of Air Pollution from Ships

Entered into force: 19 May 2005

Driving climate action in shipping – MARPOL Annex VI regulations on carbon intensity promote energy efficient ship design and operation, and the move to cleaner fuels and technologies. They drive innovation to cut GHG emissions, in line with the IMO GHG Strategy. More regulations are being developed by IMO with a view to phasing out GHG emissions from international shipping completely.

Breathing better – The IMO 2020 sulphur limit under MARPOL Annex VI reduced sulphur oxide emissions from ships by 77% from 1 January 2020, protecting human health and the oceans.

Cleaning the air – MARPOL Annex VI limits air pollution from ships, including sulphur oxides (SOx), particulate matter and nitrogen oxides (NOx), and thus improves air quality globally, particularly in coastal regions.

Planning for emergencies – MARPOL requires most ships to carry emergency pollution plans in case of an incident.

Ensuring fuel quality – MARPOL Annex VI requires samples to be taken of all fuel oil loaded onto a ship, to ensure the fuel meets the relevant standards.

Protecting the polar regions – MARPOL makes the Polar Code mandatory, providing additional protection for ships operating in Polar waters

Extra protection in special areas – MARPOL Special Areas and Emission Control Areas provide even stricter discharge limits in areas needing special protection

Supporting Maritime Sustainability: Our Commitment

MARPOL’s impact is significant, advocating for safer shipping practices, cleaner seas, and a sustainable maritime future. Reflecting on MARPOL’s achievements, we, at Euroshore, play our part in this global effort.

As a reliable provider of essential maritime equipment—cargo nets, webbing slings, and ratchet straps—our products align with MARPOL’s vision of responsible and eco-friendly shipping, reflecting our commitment to supporting a cleaner, safer maritime industry for the benefit of future generations.