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What is Marpol?

written by: Raunekk • edited by: Lamar Stonecypher • updated: 2/9/2010

Marpol is a set of international regulations that prevent ships from spreading environmental pollution at sea.The idea of "marpol" came into being almost fifty years ago;however, the increased pollution at sea in the past few years has made it one of the most important regulations in the world today

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    “Marpol," the short form for marine pollution, is also the name of an international convention for the prevention of environmental pollution from any sea going vessel. Better known as Marpol 73/78, the agreement came into effect on 2nd November 1973 at the headquarters of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in London, England.

    The main aim for implementing Marpol was to minimize the pollution of the seas, which mainly occurs because of the dirty oil, exhaust gases, and hazardous chemicals from ships. The Marpol convention provides utmost importance to the marine environment by completely eliminating the usage of any type of substances that can prove harmful to the environment.

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    History of Marpol

    The history of Marpol goes back to 1954 when the first conference related to sea pollution known as “the International convention for the prevention of pollution of the sea by oil" (OILPOL) was held. The conference was first organized by the United Kingdom; however later on, all the regulations and functions related to the convention were transferred to the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

    The 1954 conference had amendments that mainly prevented oil pollution at sea. It did this by making zones wherein any kind of oil discharge was prohibited. Then in 1967, following the disastrous accident of the oil tanker Torrey Canyon which dumped almost 120,000 tons of oil into the English Channel, the 1954 convention was modified and established in 1973, with a main focus on oil tankers. The 1973 convention was later again modified in 1978.

    Technically, Marpol 73/78 is a combination of the two international Marpol treaties which came into being in the year 1973 and 1978. The first treaty that came into force in the year 1973 prevented pollution by oil, chemicals and hazardous substances in packaged form. However, the people involved revised the treaty because of the series of tanker accidents that took place between 1976 and 1977. The new Marpol treaty was then re-adopted in February 1978.

    The period from 1976 to 1977 saw a series of oil pollution accidents at high seas, which not only affected the marine life but also the people who lived in the coastal areas. The revival of the Marpol convention was made with a special focus on the oil tankers going to the seas. A special conference on Tanker safety and pollution prevention was held to bring into notice various issues related to tanker design and operation. The Marpol 73/78 has been in operation since then; however, several changes have taken place in the original convention in the last few years.

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    What does Marpol Consists Of?

    Marpol 73/78 mainly consists of six annexes that describe various regulations related to the discharge of oil and other environmentally harmful chemicals into the sea. The first annex of the six annexes came into force from 1983 and the rest of the annexes followed it gradually. Each of the annexes is dedicated to the rules and regulations of a particular harmful substance. A brief outline of each annexure is as follows.

    Annex 1 of the Marpol deals with regulations related to the discharge of oil into the sea, annex 2 deals with regulations of noxious liquid substances, annex 3 deals with the regulations of harmful substances in packaged form, annex 4 deals with regulations related to sewage, annex 5 deals with garbage and solid waste, and the most recently established annex 6 deals with air pollution from ships.

    Apart from this, the Marpol convention consists of various regulations related to the design, construction, and inspection of the ship. Marpol also includes a special segment known as the “special areas" wherein a few areas around the world are limited from any kind of discharge into its waters, mainly because of their vulnerable environmental conditions and already damaged ecosystem.

    Thus, Marpol is a compilation of various rules and regulations that monitors and prevents the pollution at sea fro ships. Moreover, because of the growing concern towards the environment, these rules are becoming stricter, demanding better and more environmentally friendly ships.