MARPOL 73/78 Law and Legal Definition

MARPOL 73/78 is the acronym for the international treaty for the prevention of pollution from ships, 1973, as modified in 1978. MARPOL includes six specific regulations dealing with oil pollution or other noxious or harmful liquids or substances carried by ship, and the pollution caused by ships, as opposed to their cargo, such as ship garbage, sewage and air pollution. MARPOL is the revised version of the 1954 OILPOL treaty or the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution of the Sea by Oil. MARPOL is envisaged to safeguard against accidental pollution as well as operational pollution or the day-to-day pollution caused by ships in transit. The oil discharge allowed under MARPOL is 1/15,000 of the total cargo carrying capacity of the vessel and at a rate not to exceed 60 litres per mile traveled by the ship and, in any event, never within 50 miles of the nearest land.

As for ship sewage, dumping is prohibited unless the ship has an approved sewage treatment plant or is dumping comminuted and disinfected sewage using an approved system at a distance of more than three nautical miles from the nearest land; or is dumping sewage which is not comminuted or disinfected at a distance of more than twelve nautical miles from the nearest land. MARPOL prohibits dumping of any forms of plastic into the sea and requires ships to carry certificates of compliance with MARPOL. Over 161 states have signed MARPOL, which is amended on a yearly basis.