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MARPOL Annex I to VI Explained: A Guide to Pollution Prevention

MARPOL Annex I to VI: Comprehensive Overview of Marine Pollution Prevention. Marine pollution poses a significant threat to our oceans and the countless ecosystems they support. To combat this issue, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) developed the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, commonly known as MARPOL. MARPOL is a comprehensive framework that includes six annexes, each addressing different aspects of marine pollution. In this detailed exploration, we will delve into each of the MARPOL Annexes I to VI to understand their significance and the measures they impose to safeguard our marine environments.

MARPOL Annex I to VI Explained

MARPOL Annex I: Prevention of Pollution by Oil

MARPOL Annex I focus on the prevention of pollution by oil from ships. It addresses the most common and visibly damaging form of marine pollution. This annex sets out strict regulations regarding the discharge of oil into the sea and requires ships to have efficient oil separation and removal equipment, such as oil-water separators, onboard.

Key provisions of MARPOL Annex I include:

– Limits on oil discharge: Annex I restricts the discharge of oil into the sea, allowing only limited quantities of oil to be released under specific conditions.
– Mandatory oil record books: Ships are required to maintain accurate records of oil-related operations and incidents.
– Prevention of oil pollution during bunkering and oil transfer operations.
Entered into force: October 2, 1983

MARPOL Annex II: Control of Pollution by Noxious Liquid Substances in Bulk

MARPOL Annex II addresses the control of pollution by noxious liquid substances carried in bulk on ships. This annex establishes regulations for the construction and equipment of chemical tankers and prescribes procedures for the handling and transportation of noxious liquid substances.

Key provisions of MARPOL Annex II include:

– Categorization of substances: The annex classifies noxious liquid substances into different categories based on their potential harm to the marine environment and human health.
– Detailed tank and cargo system requirements.
– Procedures for loading, unloading, and cleaning chemical tankers.
Entered into force: July 6, 1986

MARPOL Annex III: Prevention of Pollution by Harmful Substances Carried by Sea in Packaged Form

MARPOL Annex III addresses the prevention of pollution by harmful substances carried in packaged form. It primarily focuses on the labeling, packaging, and documentation of dangerous goods that are transported by sea.

Key provisions of MARPOL Annex III include:

– Classification and categorization of packaged dangerous goods.
– Requirements for proper packaging, labeling, and documentation.
– Provisions for stowage and segregation to prevent contamination and pollution.
Entered into force: July 1, 1992

MARPOL Annex IV: Prevention of Pollution by Sewage from Ships

MARPOL Annex IV is concerned with the prevention of pollution by sewage from ships. It establishes regulations for the treatment and discharge of sewage from various types of ships, depending on their size and type.

Key provisions of MARPOL Annex IV include:

– Requirements for the installation of sewage treatment plants onboard ships.
– Restrictions on the discharge of sewage near coastal areas and special areas.
– Rules for the retention and discharge of sewage based on ship type and size.
Entered into force: September 27, 2003

MARPOL Annex V: Prevention of Pollution by Garbage from Ships

MARPOL Annex V is dedicated to the prevention of pollution by garbage from ships. Garbage in this context includes solid waste materials generated during the operation of ships, such as plastics, food waste, and operational waste.

Key provisions of MARPOL Annex V include:

– Prohibitions on the disposal of plastics and other harmful garbage at sea.
– Regulations for the management and disposal of different types of ship-generated garbage.
– Record-keeping requirements for garbage discharges.
Entered into force: December 31, 1988

MARPOL Annex VI: Prevention of Air Pollution from Ships

MARPOL Annex VI addresses the prevention of air pollution from ships. It sets limits on emissions of sulfur oxides (SOx), nitrogen oxides (NOx), and other pollutants from ship exhausts. The annex also introduces the concept of Emission Control Areas (ECAs) where stricter emission limits apply.

Key provisions of MARPOL Annex VI include:

– Emission limits for SOx and NOx, including a gradual reduction of sulfur content in ship fuel.
– Introduction of Energy Efficiency Existing Ship Index (EEXI) and Carbon Intensity Indicator (CII) to improve the energy efficiency of ships.
– Requirements for the use of cleaner fuels and the installation of exhaust gas cleaning systems (scrubbers).
Entered into force: May 19, 2005

In addition to these six annexes, MARPOL also includes additional regulations on the prevention of pollution by garbage from ships and ballast water management, which are essential components of the convention’s holistic approach to marine pollution prevention.


MARPOL Annex I to VI collectively form a robust framework for the prevention of pollution from ships. They address a wide range of environmental concerns, from oil pollution to air emissions, and provide detailed regulations to ensure the safe and sustainable operation of vessels at sea. By implementing these annexes, the international maritime community takes a significant step toward protecting our oceans and marine ecosystems, promoting responsible shipping practices, and mitigating the adverse effects of pollution on our planet. It is essential for shipowners, operators, and governments to uphold and enforce these regulations to ensure the long-term health and sustainability of our oceans.

MG Staff
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