Other Maritime Conventions

A number of other conventions with relevance to marine pollution are summarised below:-

Further information on each of these conventions is available on the website of the International Maritime Organization (www.imo.org).

The International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, 1973, as modified by the Protocol of 1978 (MARPOL 73/78)

This Convention was adopted in 1973 and was subsequently modified by the Protocol of 1978. MARPOL was established in recognition of the need to control and minimise the deliberate, negligent or accidental release of oil and other harmful substances from ships into the marine environment. The Convention currently includes six technical Annexes.

  • Annex 1: Prevention of Pollution by Ships
    Annex I specifies regulations to minimise oil pollution caused by ships, particularly oil tankers. Controls are specified on the amounts of oil that can be discharged at sea and discharges in "special areas" are prohibited. Standards are established for segregated ballast tanks and onboard equipment such as crude oil washing devices, oily-water separators, pumping and discharge systems, and monitoring devices. In addition to the requirement for shipboard oil pollution emergency plans, amendments to Annex 1 make it mandatory for new oil tankers to be constructed with double hulls in order to limit the amount of oil likely to escape into the sea in the event of a grounding or collision.
  • Annex II: Control of Pollution by Noxious Liquid Substances
    Annex II deals with regulations pertaining to the carriage and discharge of chemicals carried at sea by bulk chemical carriers. Discharge criteria are established for different types of chemicals in different operating environments, and standards have been established for tank washing and associated pumping and piping arrangements.
  • Annex III: Prevention of Pollution by Harmful Substances in Packaged Form
    Annex III deals with harmful substances carried in packaged forms including freight containers and portable tanks. It provides guidelines for packaging, labelling, stowage and documentation of such substances.
  • Annex IV: Prevention of Pollution by Sewage from Ships
    Annex IV contains requirements to control pollution of the sea by sewage.
  • 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 which they may be disposed of. Annex V requires governments to provide garbage reception facilities at ports and terminals and imposes a complete ban on the dumping of all forms of plastic into the sea.
  • Annex VI: Prevention of Air Pollution from Ships
    Annex VI was adopted with the aim of reducing emissions of airborne pollutants by ships. It includes a global cap on the sulphur content of bunker fuel and limits CFC, SOx and NOx emissions and the incineration of certain products.

International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Cooperation, 1990 (OPRC)

portThis Convention was adopted by a Diplomatic Conference convened by the IMO in November, 1990. It entered into force in May, 1995. As its name indicates, it deals with preparing for and responding to oil pollution incidents, not only from ships but also from offshore oil exploration and production platforms, sea ports and oil handling facilities. The various articles of the Convention cover the preparation of oil pollution emergency plans by the operators of the above; oil pollution reporting procedures and the actions to be taken on receipt of such a report; the establishment of national and regional systems for preparedness and response; international cooperation in pollution response; research and development; and technical cooperation.

The Convention is designed primarily to assist developing countries to prepare for and respond to major oil pollution incidents. The Convention will potentially benefit shipowners since it will probably result in more effective oil spill response in various parts of the world.

Protocol on Preparedness, Response and Co-operation to Pollution Incidents by Hazardous and Noxious Substances, 2000 (OPRC-HNS Protocol)

In 2000 a Protocol was introduced extending the provisions of OPRC 1990 to encompass Hazardous and Noxious Substances. The OPRC-HNS Protocol entered into force on 14 June 2007. The Protocol will ensure that ships carrying hazardous and noxious liquid substances are covered by preparedness and response regimes similar to those already in existence for oil incidents. Parties to the Protocol are required to establish measures for dealing with pollution incidents, either nationally or in co-operation with other countries.

For the purposes of the HNS Protocol, a Hazardous and Noxious Substance is defined as any substance other than oil which, if introduced into the marine environment is likely to create hazards to human health, to harm living resources and marine life, to damage amenities or to interfere with other legitimate uses of the sea. The definition of HNS under the OPRC-HNS Protocol is wider than that provided under the International Convention on Liability and Compensation for Damage in Connection with the Carriage of Hazardous and Noxious Substances (HNS) by Sea (HNS Convention).

As with the OPRC Convention, operators of ships, ports and facilities handling HNS are required to have emergency plans for dealing with an HNS incident. INTERTANKO members are being advised that the “Shipboard Marine Pollution Emergency Plan” (SMPEP), as required under MARPOL, should satisfy requirements for a “Pollution Incident Emergency Plan” under the OPRC-HNS Protocol. However, it is recommended that confirmation of specific requirements is sought from the relevant Administration even if the Administration with which the ship is registered is not a party to the OPRC-HNS Protocol.

Nairobi International Convention on the Removal of Wrecks, 2007

sinking vesselIn May 2007 a new international convention on wreck removal was adopted in Kenya. The Nairobi International Convention on the Removal of Wrecks 2007 aims to provide the first set of uniform international rules for ensuring wrecks located beyond the territorial sea are identified, marked and, if it is deemed necessary, removed.

The IMO has estimated that around 1,300 shipwrecks have been abandoned, some of which may pose a risk to navigation or a risk to the marine and coastal environments (from oil and cargo remaining on board). Concerns have been raised that the potentially high costs involved in removing a wreck and the hazardous materials on board may be prohibitive for some states. The new Convention aims to resolve these and other issues and will enter into force twelve months after it has been ratified by 10 states.