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MARPOL Annex V Amendments Effective January 1, 2013

MARPOL stands for the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships. This convention was adopted under the name International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships in November of 1973 at the International Maritime Organization (IMO), with the goal of pollution prevention and reduction, whether accidental or as a result of normal operations. However, this convention, with further changes, did not take effect or gain its current title until October of 1983. The purpose of the IMO and MARPOL is to guide states (countries) in best maritime safety practices and standardize safe operating procedures with international cooperation.

MARPOL currently contains six annexes, each covering a type of pollution from ships: Annex I covers oil pollution, including mandating double hulled oil tankers; Annex II deals with the approximately 250 noxious liquid bulk substances transported by ships; Annex III instructs on packaged harmful substances, including how to pack, label, and stow these substances; Annex IV prohibits sewage pollution; Annex V restricts garbage from ships; and VI sets controls on emissions and ship exhausts into the air.

Annex V, which addresses the garbage from ships, has been amended with the changes taking effect on January 1, 2013. Annex V already bans any type of plastic disposal at sea. On January 1, 2013, Annex V will prohibit all types of garbage disposal at sea, including food waste, except as specified under certain conditions.

For example, if outside of a designated "special area," ground-up food waste which is small enough to pass through a screen with openings of 25mm or less may be dispersed at sea if the ship is less than three nautical miles from land. Within designated special areas, the same gauge of ground or comminuted food waste may be dispersed into the sea twelve or more nautical miles from land.

Food residues, cargo residues, and non-toxic cleaning agents, such as those found in hold or deck wash water that are not carcinogenic, mutagenic, or reprotoxic, or otherwise dangerous, may be discharged twelve or more nautical miles from land.

The caveat to any disposal is that anything put into the water must be harmless to the marine environment. Further, the ship must actually be in transit between ports, be unable to travel between those two ports outside a designated special area, and be without any way in which to dump these types of waste in an appropriate manner in port. Operational waste, including plastic, fuel, and other chemicals, or the incinerator ash thereof, are never to be dumped at sea.

Another amendment to Annex V mandates using the updated Garbage Record Book with new categories and revised reporting requirements. Also, all vessels of 100 gross tons or more and vessels certified to carry fifteen or more people must carry a Garbage Management Plan, and all vessels twelve meters or more long must display signs visible to crew and passengers detailing the MARPOL Annex V requirements. Crews are to be trained in these requirements.

How do the MARPOL Annex V amendment affect fishing vessels?

Section 2.2 of Annex V addresses lost fishing gear, which we know can be environmentally harmful as well as foul vessels. All lost gear is to be recorded in the Garbage Record Book or ship log. If the loss poses a threat to navigation or to the environment, the master must report the details to the flag state and coastal state having jurisdiction over those waters. Proper onboard storage of fishing gear is encouraged.

Section 2.12 deals with the disposal of animals that have died in transit. Fish and shellfish carcasses are included in the definition of live cargo and should be disposed of in the same manner as any other deceased livestock, if possible, with attention to the maintaining the crew's health and to controlling any pathogens that may harm the marine environment. Ideally, the fish to be disposed will be ground or comminuted to 25mm or less, preferably 100 nautical miles from shore and in the deepest possible water.

People once believed the seas and oceans would absorb anything they threw at it. We now understand that is false. Human pollution has affected nearly every part of the globe, including our waterways and seas, and it's not going away on its own. Conventions like MARPOL seek to address this and other issues, but it requires commitment from leaders of countries, corporations, as well as individual masters and crew to improve maritime safety and protect our environment.

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