New rules restricting the disposal of garbage (or marine debris) from ships, pleasure craft and offshore installations are now in force, with the aim of reducing the amount of marine pollution.
The changes highlight and reflect a general prohibition on garbage discharges, although the rules continue to allow some specified discharges. The changed rules align domestic legislation with amendments to Annex V of MARPOL (the international convention for the prevention of pollution from ships). The amended rules tighten limits on disposal of garbage at sea and apply operational requirements (such as the use of signage on board, garbage management plans and the keeping of record books) to a wider range of ships and offshore installations.
Previously, only plastics were banned outright from being thrown overboard, but this prohibition has been expanded to include ropes, fishing gear and plastic garbage bags, plastic-derived incinerator ashes, cooking oil, dunnage (pallets and associated materials), lining and packing material that floats, papers, glass, metal, bottles, crockery and similar refuse. The changes will reduce the volume of garbage entering the sea, increasing the volume that is discharged ashore or incinerated on board in the short term, but driving a behaviour shift focused on minimising the volume of waste taken to sea.
Further restrictions apply to the discharge of cargo residues and cleaning agents if they are harmful to the marine environment. Livestock carriers that discharge animal carcasses are also regulated, but there is no change to the rules aroundfish or bait discharged during fishing or aquaculture. Food waste rules remain unchanged – food may be discharged if vessels are more than 12 nautical miles from shore or more than three nautical miles if the material is ground up.
Other changes include the requirement to report lost fishing gear if it poses a significant threat to the marine environment or a navigation hazard.