Ship waste dumping

Despite decades of regulation at the International Maritime Organisation and elsewhere, and the prohibition of the discharge and dumping of nearly all ship waste streams, large quantities of oil, garbage and other wastes routinely find their way into the sea. Indeed, there is little real evidence that these discharges are diminishing.

No Place for Waste

Seas At Risk believes that our oceans and seas are “no place for waste” and that the current regulatory regime needs a major overhaul if litter and other waste from ships is to stop ending up in the sea.



Fortunately there are now two major opportunities to reform the current body of regulations. Both the EU Directive (governing the provision and use of waste reception facilities in port) and the IMO’s MARPOL Convention Annex V (governing what items of garbage ships can and cannot dump at sea) are up for review. This is a once in a generation opportunity to bring about a radically different and more effective regime to stop the dumping of ship generated waste at sea.

The main sea-based sources of marine litter in the North East Atlantic are shipping and fisheries
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Review of Annex V of MARPOL 73/78

Seas At Risk is participating in the IMO process preparing for a review of the garbage provisions (Annex V) of the MARPOL 73/78. Amongst other things it is hoped that this review process will result in the adoption of a blanket prohibition on the dumping of garbage at sea with exceptions where necessary, reversing the current situation whereby the dumping of categories of items is only prohibited where they are mentioned specifically. This new approach would convey a stronger message about dumping and eliminate the possibility of items being dumped because they do not obviously fit one of the categories of items listed.

July 2011: Issues arising from the IMO MEPC's work on the revision of MARPOL Annex V
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Details of MARPOL 73/78 including information about Annex V (garbage) and links to more on the review process.
MARPOl 73/78 |
Poster (Low resolution) - No Place For Waste
Zero discharge means Zero Confusion
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No Place for Waste
Let's end ship waste dumping at sea
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Review of EU Directive 2000/59/EC

The Directive regulates the provision of port reception facilities in EU ports and their use by ships visiting those ports.

One traditional reason given for ships failure to discharge their waste to shore has been inadequate provision of port waste reception facilities (PRFs). While this may still play some part, low levels of usage in ports that have excellent PRF provision suggest that the real reason for dumping at sea is often to save on the fees that ports normally charge for the use of such facilities. Ships can save these fees and dump at sea with little chance of being caught.

One of the main demands of Seas At Risk in respect of the review of the Directive is the removal of this disincentive to PRF use. By incorporating the cost of PRF use in the general harbour dues which all ships pay (regardless of whether they use the PRFs) you remove one very obvious and substantial reason for ships choosing to dump at sea. Such an approach, generally known as a “no-special-fee” system, is already in place in the Baltic Sea, and Seas At Risk has been lobbying for its introduction at EU level. At present only requires a partial inclusion of PRF fees in harbour dues with savings still to be made by ships that choose to dump at sea instead.

As part of the review the European Commission has sponsored a study into the availability and use of PRFs (Carl Bro study) and this includes some clear observations in support of a 100% no-special-fee system for EU ports.


SAR Position Paper in connection with the 2011 public consultation on the Port Reception Facilities Directive
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SAR response to the 2011 public consultation on the Port Reception Facilities Directive
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Helcom recommendation establishing a no-special-fee system in the Baltic Sea (26/3/98).
Helcom Recommendation 19/8 |

Litter Manifesto for the North East Atlantic
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Poster (Low resolution) - No Place for Waste
Remove incentives to dump waste at sea
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EU Directive (2000/59/EC) on port reception facilities (27/11/00).
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Executive Summary of the Carl Bro Study on the Availability and Use of Port Reception Facilities for Ship-Generated Waste (12/05).
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OSPAR QUALITY STATUS REPORT 2010
Assessment of the impact of shipping on the marine environment
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