MARPOL 73/78

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MARPOL 73/78 ratifying states

Marpol 73/78 is the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, 1973 as modified by the Protocol of 1978. ("Marpol" is short for marine pollution and 73/78 short for the years 1973 and 1978.)

Marpol 73/78 is one of the most important international marine environmental conventions. It was designed to minimize pollution of the seas, including dumping, oil and exhaust pollution. Its stated object is to preserve the marine environment through the complete elimination of pollution by oil and other harmful substances and the minimization of accidental discharge of such substances.

The original MARPOL was signed on 17 February 1973, but did not come into force due to lack of ratifications. The current convention is a combination of 1973 Convention and the 1978 Protocol. It entered into force on 2 October 1983. As of May 2013, 152 states, representing 99.2 per cent of the world's shipping tonnage, are parties to the convention.[1]

All ships flagged under countries that are signatories to MARPOL are subject to its requirements, regardless of where they sail and member nations are responsible for vessels registered under their respective nationalities.[2]

Further information: Marine debris


List of the MARPOL 73/78 Annexes
Annex Title Entry into force[3] No. of Contracting Parties/States[3]α  % of the World Tonnage[3]β
Annex I prevention of pollution by oil & oily water 2 October 1983
Annex II control of pollution by noxious liquid substances in bulk
Annex III prevention of pollution by harmful substances carried by sea in packaged form 1 July 1992 138 97.59
Annex IV pollution by sewage from ships
Annex V pollution by garbage from ships
Annex VI Prevention of air pollution from ships 19 May 2005 72 94.70


As of 31 July 2013
Based on World Fleet Statistics as of 31 December 2012


Marpol Annex VI amendments according with MEPC 176(58) came into force 1 July 2010.

Amended Regulations 12 concerns control and record keeping of Ozone Depleting Substances.

Amended Regulation 14 concerns mandatory fuel oil change over procedures for vessels entering or leaving SECA areas and FO sulphur limits.

Implementation and enforcement

In order for IMO standards to be binding, they must first be ratified by a total number of member countries whose combined gross tonnage represents at least 50% of the world's gross tonnage, a process that can be lengthy. A system of tacit acceptance has therefore been put into place, whereby if no objections are heard from a member state after a certain period has elapsed, it is assumed they have assented to the treaty.

All six Annexes have been ratified by the requisite number of nations; the most recent is Annex VI, which took effect in May 2005. The country where a ship is registered (Flag State) is responsible for certifying the ship's compliance with MARPOL's pollution prevention standards. Each signatory nation is responsible for enacting domestic laws to implement the convention and effectively pledges to comply with the convention, annexes, and related laws of other nations. In the United States, for example, the relevant implementation legislation is the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships.[2]

One of the difficulties in implementing MARPOL arises from the very international nature of maritime shipping. The country that the ship visits can conduct its own examination to verify a ship's compliance with international standards and can detain the ship if it finds significant noncompliance. When incidents occur outside such country's jurisdiction or jurisdiction cannot be determined, the country refers cases to flag states, in accordance with MARPOL. A 2000 GAO report documented that even when referrals have been made, the response rate from flag states has been poor.

In Europe, 1st January 2015 Maritime shipping levels is to become legally subject to new MARPOL directives because the SECA (Sulphur Emission Controlled Areas) zone is due to increase in size. This larger SECA zone will include the North Sea, Scandinavia, and parts of the English Channel. This area is set to include all of the Republic of Ireland's international waters in 2020 culminating in all of Western Europe's subjection to the MARPOL directive. This has proven controversial for shipping and ferry operators across Europe.

Concerns have been raised about the environmental damage moving back to the roads by some of the larger ferry operators that ship substantial amounts of freight and passenger traffic via these routes affected by IMO standards. They claim that MARPOL will drive up ferry costs for the consumer and freight forwarding companies pushing them back onto the European roadways as a financially more cost effective measure compared to increased ferry costs, thereby defeating the object of reducing water pollution.[4]

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b Copeland, Claudia. "Cruise Ship Pollution: Background, Laws and Regulations, and Key Issues" (Order Code RL32450). Congressional Research Service (Updated 6 February 2008). This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  3. ^ a b c Summary of Status of Conventions,

External links

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