Origin of Marpol 73/78 and latest amendments

MARPOL 73/78

1st Conference U.K. 1954, International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution of the Sea by Oil (OILPOL) entry into force on 26 July 1958 attempted to tackle the problem of pollution of the seas by oil

i) crude oil
ii) fuel oil
iii) heavy diesel oil
iv) lubricating oil

The 1st convention was amended in 1962, 1969 and 1971, to set limits to the quantities of oil discharge into sea by Oil Tankers and oily wastes from machinery spaces by

i) established "prohibited zones"
ii) extending at least 50 miles from the nearest land in which the discharge of oil or of mixtures containing more than 100 parts of oil per million was forbidden


1971, protection to the Great Barrier Reef of Australia and also to limit the size of tanks on oil tankers - collision or stranding.

1973 adopted the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships. Response to a spate of tanker accidents in 1976-1977, IMO held a Conference on Tanker Safety and Pollution Prevention in February 1978

The International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) was adopted on 2 November 1973 at IMO and covered pollution by :

i) oil,
ii) chemicals,
iii) harmful substances in packaged form,
iv) sewage
v) garbage.

The Protocol of 1978 relating to the 1973 International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (1978 MARPOL Protocol) was adopted at a Conference on Tanker Safety and Pollution Prevention in February 1978

(Measures relating to tanker design and operation were also incorporated into a Protocol of 1978 relating to the 1974 Convention on the Safety of Life at Sea, 1974).


Objective of the MARPOL Convention 73/78

The overarching objective of the MARPOL Convention is to entirely eliminate pollution of the marine environment by discharges of oil and other hazardous substances from ships and to minimise such discharges in connection with ships’ accidents. The MARPOL 73/78 Convention is a frame convention with six annexes containing detailed regulations regarding permissible discharges, equipment on board ships, etc.

Annex I : Regulations for the Prevention of Pollution by Oil 2 October 1983

Annex II : Regulations for the Control of Pollution by Noxious Liquid Substances (chemicals) in Bulk. 6 April 1987

Annex III : Regulations for the Prevention of Pollution by Harmful Substances Carried by Sea in Packaged Form. 1 July 1992

Annex IV : Regulations for the Prevention of Pollution by Sewage from Ships. 27 September 2003

Annex V : Regulations for the Prevention of Pollution by Garbage from Ships. 31 December 1988

Annex VI : Regulations for the Prevention of Air Pollution from Ships and Nitrogen oxide. Will enter into force on 19 May 2005


Apart from the detailed regulations in the Annexes of the MARPOL 73/78 Convention the convention also includes a number of regulations regarding inspection of ships, etc. aimed at facilitate for the authorities to control the ships’ compliance with the requirements of the convention.

Furthermore, there are regulations on the compulsory keeping of cargo and waste log books. These logs shall make it possible for the authorities to check for breaches against discharge regulations.


MARPOL Amendments : Antarctic Fuel Oil Ban And North American ECA

Amendments to MARPOL, banning heavy fuel oil from the Antarctic and creating a new North American Emission Control Area (ECA), has been entered into force in the year 2012.

The new regulation to protect the Antarctic from pollution by heavy-grade oils is added to MARPOL Annex I, with a new chapter 9 on special requirements for the use or carriage of oils in the Antarctic Area.

Regulation 43 prohibits both carriage in bulk as cargo and carriage and use as fuel, of: crude oils with a density higher than 900 kg/m3 at 15°C; oils, other than crude oils, with a density higher than 900 kg/m3 at 15°C, or a kinematic viscosity higher than 180 mm2/s at 50°C; or bitumen, tar and their emulsions. Therefore, all ships trading to or transiting the Antarctic Area, defined as "the sea area south of latitude 60°S", will need to switch to a different type of fuel. An exception is envisaged for vessels securing the safety of ships or involved in search and rescue operations.

Amendments to MARPOL Annex VI, establishes a North American ECA, where sulphur oxide (SOx), nitrogen oxide (NOx) and particulate matter emissions from ships will be subject to stricter controls than what applies globally. The ECA will take effect on 1 August 2012. The entry into force will mean that there are currently three designated ECAs, the other two being sulphur oxide ECAs: the Baltic Sea area and the North Sea area.


Reference publications

  • IMSBC Code
  • IMDG Code + Supplement to the Code
  • MARPOL 73/78
  • IMO Resolution A.868 (20) – “Guidelines for Preventing the Introduction of Unwanted Aquatic Organisms and Pathogens from Ship’s Ballast Water and Sediment Discharged”
  • Guide to Port Entry Master







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