Assistant Secretary-General and Director of the Marine Environment Division, International Maritime Organization
When it comes to plastic waste on ships, the rules are clear – keep it onboard until it can be disposed of properly. The discharge of garbage containing plastics into the sea from ships is prohibited.
The discharge of garbage containing plastics into the sea from ships is prohibited under rules adopted by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the global regulatory body for shipping. These regulations, contained in the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL), also oblige governments to ensure adequate port reception facilities to receive ship waste.
Another treaty regulates the dumping of waste at sea. Dumping waste at sea is generally prohibited, with only a limited number of materials permitted for disposal, such as those from dredging. This waste must be fully assessed to ensure it does not contain harmful materials, like plastics.
More needs to be done to ensure full and effective implementation of these regulations, so it is important that organisations are keeping marine litter on their agenda.
A key way of helping countries to develop training packages is by implementing the MARPOL garbage rules and contributing to a Massive Open Online Course on marine litter.
Educational resources, such as online websites and interactive materials, aimed at children are also useful ways we can promote awareness of shipping in relation to marine pollution.
Through interagency partnerships, organisations can ensure that the global efforts to tackle marine litter are carried out effectively and in harmony with other stakeholders involved in waste management, both at sea and on land.