International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships

Emperor penguins in a huddle (males with eggs) at the Taylor Rookery. Emperor penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri). Robyn Mundy.

The International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL 73/78) is a convention that protects the environment from pollution caused by ships. It seeks to prevent pollution by oil, harmful substances in packaged form, sewage, garbage and air pollution; and to control pollution from noxious liquid substances.

'Special Areas', such as the Antarctic, have been recognised as areas so vulnerable to pollution by oil, that, with minor exceptions, discharge of oil is completely prohibited. Similarly, there is a ban on the dumping of all types of plastic into the sea.

Amendments to the convention include limits on the emission of ozone-depleting substances, and the requirement for all ships to have an 'Oil Pollution Management Plan'.

MARPOL is substantially implemented under the Protection of Sea (Prevention of Pollution from Ships) Act 1983 which also incorporates the provisions of Annex IV of the Madrid Protocol.

This page was last modified on 15 September 2011.