Revised MARPOL Annex V: discharging garbage and solid bulk cargoes

The 62nd meeting of the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC 62) of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has adopted more stringent discharge regulations for garbage and solid bulk cargoes. These regulations, which can be found in the revised Annex V of the MARPOL Convention, has become effective (2013). The revised Annex V (Regulations for the prevention of pollution by garbage from ships) regulates the discharge of garbage and solid bulk cargo residues.

Key amendments

The most significant amendment is the implementation of a total ban on discharges, with one exemption. For garbage, food waste falls under this exemption in the interests of on-board hygiene. Cargo residues may only be discharged if they are not classified as harmful to the marine environment.

All exceptions to the discharge ban involve a minimum distance from the coast regarding where discharge may legally take place. For example, food waste that is comminuted or ground may only be discharged outside the 3-nautical-mile zone and food waste that is not comminuted or ground and cargo residues that are not harmful to the marine environment may only be discharged outside the 12-nautical-mile zone. These conditions apply to discharges outside the designated special areas.

Other amendments

Annex V contains other amendments in addition to the implementation of the total discharge ban. Firstly, all the definitions have been more clearly described and alphabetised, making the text more user-friendly.
Special attention has been paid to the definition of plastic because this is still a significant source of pollution, despite the fact that a total discharge ban has applied since 31 December 1988.

Special areas

The revised Annex V also distinguishes between permitted discharges outside a special area and permitted discharges inside a special area. The following regions have been designated as special areas: the Mediterranean Sea, the Baltic, the Red Sea, the Gulfs Area, the North Sea, the Antarctic area, the Wider Caribbean Region and the Black Sea.

The discharge conditions for food waste define that, outside of a special area, food waste that is not comminuted or ground may be discharged outside the 3-nautical-mile zone and food waste that is comminuted or ground outside the 12-nautical-mile zone. Within a special area only food waste that is comminuted or ground may be discharged, at a distance of minimum 12 nautical miles from the coast. An additional regulation for the Antarctic area is that waste containing avian products, such as chicken, may only be discharged if these products have been made sterile.

Cargo residues

Cargo residues outside special areas may only be discharged if they are not harmful to the marine environment.
Within a special area, cargo residues can only be discharged where the following conditions are satisfied:

  • Cargo residues, cleaning agents or additives, contained in hold washing water do not include any substances classified as harmful to the marine environment (See classification MEPC.277(70)).
  • Both the port of departure and the next port of destination are within the special area and the ship will not transit outside the special area between those ports; and
  • No adequate reception facilities are available at those ports.

Discharge of cargo hold washing water containing residues shall be made as far as practicable from the nearest land or the nearest ice shelf (not less than 12 nautical miles).

Garbage management plan and garbage record book

Regulation 10 of the revised Annex V describes regulations for compulsory posters, the garbage management plan and the garbage record book. These regulations are more stringently defined in comparison with the current Annex V. For example, as of 1 January 2013, any vessel of 100 GT and above must have a garbage management plan. Under the current version of Annex V this is a tonnage of 400 GT.

Regulation 10 now also states that the loss of fishing gear that could potentially form a significant threat to the marine environment or navigation must be immediately reported to the vessel's flag state. If such loss occurs within the jurisdiction of a flag state then this loss must also be reported to this flag state.

Finally, it is worth mentioning that the format of the garbage record book has remained unchanged but that the definition of the various types of garbage has been modified to harmonise with the current definitions. As in Annex I and II, it prescribes that the Proof of Delivery to the port reception facility must be kept in the record book. The garbage record book must be kept on board for a minimum of two years from the date of the most recent record.