The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has taken steps to further regulate garbage from ships by agreeing to a set of proposed drafted amendments to existing regulations – Once adopted, strong enforcement will be crucial.

The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has taken steps to further regulate garbage from ships by agreeing to a set of proposed drafted amendments to existing regulations – Once adopted, strong enforcement will be crucial.

At last week’s Marine Environmental protection Committee (MEPC), the IMO endorsed the ‘general prohibition’ on the discharge of garbage from ships, and although exceptions do apply, the draft amendments are a step forward in tackling marine litter emanating from ships.

The current Annex V of the MARPOL Convention, that concerns the prevention of pollution from garbage by ships, allows for the dumping of numerous items such as paper based products, rags, glass, metal, bottles and crockery. The proposed amendments would put a ban on all such items being tossed over board.

Exceptions to the general prohibition – or a ‘no throw’ rule – include discharging food waste, wash water (that does not cause harm to the marine environment), animal carcasses (that have died during transit) and exceptional instances such as when the crew’s health and safety are at risk.

If the amendments are formally adopted at the next year’s MEPC, immediate ratification into state legislation - and stronger enforcement of the regulations than is currently exerted by members states - will be critical if dumping of waste at sea is to fall.

Indeed, although the dumping of plastic has been explicitly prohibited by Annex V since 1988, some estimates put the amount of plastic dumped at sea per year at 6.5 million tonnes.

Seas At Risk attended the conference as part of the Clean Shipping Coalition who have observer status at the IMO.

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