Print

Discharge standards

A summary of discharge standards under MARPOL and local regulations if you are operating your vessel in Australian waters.

If you need more detail about discharge standards, see the marine order and legislation for full discharge requirements and definitions or the current texts of MARPOL.

From nearest land

MARPOL contains the term 'from the nearest land'. The nearest land boundary off the north eastern coast of Australia extends around the outer edge of the Great Barrier Reef and part of the Torres Strait region. Within this area no discharges are generally allowed.

Where MARPOL does not state a distance from the nearest land, certain discharges may be allowed in accordance with the relevant MARPOL Annex.

Special areas

Different discharge standards apply in MARPOL special areas. While Australia does not have a designated special area, some stricter requirements have been applied under the different annexes of MARPOL for the Antarctic area, which is the sea area south of latitude 60° S. MARPOL also applies the international code for ships operating in polar waters (the Polar code). The Polar code provides additional environmental protection to polar waters (the Arctic and Antarctic areas). 

For more information on the MARPOL Antarctic requirements, see the text of the convention.

Particularly sensitive sea area

MARPOL discharge standards apply in Australia’s particularly sensitive sea area (Great Barrier Reef, Torres Strait and Coral Sea), noting the nearest land boundary.

Ports and parks

Stricter requirements may apply to vessels when in Australian ports, state or territory waters or the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. This should be checked with the relevant port, state, territory, or Commonwealth authorities (GBRMPA) prior to discharge in these areas.

Oil MARPOL Annex I—applies to all vessels (table 1)

Vessel or voyage type or area

Sub-category

Discharge conditions

Oil tankers
All waters

Oily waste from cargo tanks

  • Discharge permitted if more than 50 nautical miles from the nearest land
  • Tanker is proceeding en route
  • Instantaneous rate of discharge less than 30 litres per nautical mile
  • Total quantity discharge does not exceed 1/15,000 or 1/30,000 of the total cargo (depending on the age of the vessel)
  • Oil discharge monitoring and control system and slop tank arrangement to be operating.

All vessels greater than or equal to 400 gross tons 
All waters

Machinery space bilges

  • Discharge permitted when proceeding en route
  • Oil content less than 15 parts per million
  • Oil discharge monitoring and control system and oil filtering equipment is operating.

In some circumstances, oil or oily mixtures, may be retained onboard for discharge to port reception facilities – see MARPOL Annex I, Regulation 14.

Note: 15 parts per million discharges can be anywhere at sea (not within port limits) including the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and marine protected areas. Vessel must not be stationary when undertaking discharge.

All vessels less than 400 gross tons 
All waters

Machinery space bilges

  • Oil and all oily mixtures retain onboard for on shore disposal

OR

  • Proceeding en route
  • Has in operation equipment of a design approved by the administration that ensures oil content less than 15 parts per million.

Note: 15 parts per million discharges can be anywhere at sea (not within port limits) including the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and marine protected areas. Vessel must not be stationary when undertaking discharge.

Vessels operating in Great Barrier Reef Marine Park

Bunkering utilising ship to ship transfers

A permit is required from GBRMPA which may impose specific conditions.

Garbage MARPOL Annex V—applies to all vessels (table 2)

This table provides a summary of discharge requirements under MARPOL Annex V. For full details refer to MARPOL consolidated edition 2017, Annex V, and the 2017 Guidelines for the Implementation of MARPOL Annex V.

All ships and small vessels arriving into Australian waters on an international voyage will be subject to Australian biosecurity requirements and additional restrictions will apply, particularly in relation to food and other waste onboard. More information is available from the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources.

Type of garbage

Ships outside special areas1

Ships within special areas1

Offshore platforms (more than 12 nautical miles from land) and all ships within 500 of such platforms

Food2 waste comminuted or ground to particle size less than 25 mm

Discharge permitted, while en route3, as far as practicable from the nearest land, but in any case, greater than or equal to 3 nautical miles from the nearest land.

Discharge permitted4, while en route3, as far as practicable from the nearest land, but in any case, greater than or equal to 12 nautical miles from the nearest land.

Discharge permitted

Food2 waste not comminuted or ground

Discharge permitted, while en route3, as far as practicable from the nearest land, but in any case, greater than or equal to 12 nautical miles from the nearest land.

Discharge prohibited

Discharge prohibited

Cargo residues that are harmful to the marine environment

Discharge prohibited

Discharge prohibited

Discharge prohibited

Cargo residues that are not harmful to the marine environment6 that cannot be recovered using commonly available methods for unloading, not contained in wash water

Discharge permitted, while en route, as far as practicable from the nearest land, but in any case, greater than or equal to 12 nautical miles from the nearest land5.

Discharge prohibited

Discharge prohibited

Cargo residues that are not harmful to the marine environment6 that cannot be recovered using commonly available methods for unloading, contained in wash water

Discharge permitted, while en route, as far as practicable from the nearest land, but in any case, greater than or equal to 12 nautical miles from the nearest land subject to conditions7.

Discharge prohibited

Cargo material not harmful to the marine environment5 contained in cargo hold bilge water

Discharge permitted, from a loaded hold8 through the ships’ fixed piping bilge drainage system.

Discharge prohibited

Cleaning agents and additives5 contained in cargo hold wash water

Discharge permitted

Discharge permitted, while en route, as far as practicable from the nearest land, but in any case, greater than or equal to 12 nautical miles from the nearest land subject to conditions7.

Discharge prohibited

Cleaning agents and additives11 in deck and external surfaces wash water

Discharge permitted

Discharge prohibited

Carcasses of animals carried on board as cargo and which died during the voyage

Discharge permitted, while en route, as far as practicable from the nearest land and at maximum water depth, but in any case, greater than or equal to 100 nm9 from the nearest land.

Discharge prohibited

Discharge prohibited

Grey water

Discharge permitted10

Discharge permitted10

Discharge permitted10

All other garbage including plastics, synthetic ropes, fishing gear, plastic garbage bags, incinerator ashes, clinkers, cooking oil, floating dunnage, lining and packing materials, paper, rags, glass, metal, bottles, crockery, and similar refuse

Discharge prohibited

Discharge prohibited

Discharge prohibited

Mixed garbage

When garbage is mixed with or contaminated by other substances prohibited from discharge or having different discharge requirements, the more stringent requirements apply.

Note: The above conditions apply except where the disposal of garbage from a ship is necessary for the purpose of securing the safety of a ship and those on board or saving life at sea – see MARPOL Regulation 7.1.1

  1. Under MARPOL Annex V, the areas of: the Mediterranean Sea; the Baltic Sea; the Black Sea; the Red Sea; the Gulfs area; the North Sea; the Antarctic area; and the wider Caribbean region (including the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea) are provided with a higher level of protection than other sea areas. Further information on special areas can be found in circular MEPC.1/Circ.778/Rev.1.
  2. Small quantities of food released directly into the sea for the specific purpose of fish feeding in connection with fishing or tourist operations is permitted.
  3. The en route requirement does not apply to the discharge of food wastes, where it is clear that retention on board presents an imminent health risk to the people on board. See MARPOL Annex V, Regulation 7.2.1.
  4. The discharge of introduced avian products, including poultry and poultry parts, is prohibited within the Antarctic special area (sea area south of latitude 600S), except where those introduced avian products are incinerated, autoclaved or otherwise treated to be made sterile.
  5. When in port, check with the port authority as local regulations may also apply. The above restrictions do not apply to the wash down of cargo residues from deck areas of vessels undertaken for safety purposes including:
    • Safe operation of a helicopter within the landing area and its immediate vicinity to avoid dust being raised by the down-draft of the rotors
    • Where there is a need to avoid navigational hazards such as dust being blown onto the wheelhouse or bridge wings
    • Where residues may cause a serious safety hazard to personnel if spillages are not cleaned from deck areas, adjacent walkways and working areas.
  6. Cargo residues are considered to be harmful to the marine environment if they are residues of solid bulk cargoes which are classified according to the criteria of the United Nations Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS). See Resolution MEPC.295(71) 2017 Guidelines for the Implementation of MARPOL Annex V and our fact sheet about managing solid bulk cargo residues in Australian waters for further information.
  7. Discharge is permitted where conditions (a) and (b), as follows, both apply: (a) both the port of departure and the next port of destination are within the special area and the ship will not transit outside the special area between theses ports; and (b) if no adequate reception facilities are available at these ports. See MARPOL Annex V Regulation 6.1.2.
  8. Vessels at anchorage for a period of time with empty holds may discharge hold bilge water through the ships’ fixed piping bilge drainage system as long as the water is not directly related to a hold washing/cleaning operation.
  9. If a threat to human health and safety of the crew or the remaining live animals on board exists, discharge to take place greater than or equal to 12 nautical miles from the nearest land.
  10. In all cases check with local authorities as local regulations may apply. Within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, as far as practicable from reefs and islands.
  11. Cleaning agents or additives in cargo hold, deck and external surfaces washwater are considered harmful to the marine environment if it is a 'harmful substance' in accordance with the criteria in MARPOL Annex III; and contains any components which are known to be carcinogenic, mutagenic or reprotoxic (CMR). See Resolution MEPC.295(71) 2017 Guidelines for the Implementation of MARPOL Annex V for further information.

Sewage—MARPOL Annex IV (table 3)

Vessel/Voyage type/Area

Sub-category

Discharge conditions

Vessels (other than passenger ships within special areas)

Comminuted and disinfected sewage using an approved system in accordance with regulation 9.1.2 of MARPOL Annex IV

  • Permitted as long as no less than 3 nautical miles from nearest land
  • Sewage originating from holding tanks, or sewage originating from spaces containing live animals is discharged at a moderate rate* while the ship is proceeding en route at a speed not less than 4 knots.

* The rate of discharge shall be approved by the administration based upon standards approved by the organisation. Recommended standards for the rate of discharge of sewage from ships can be found in Marine Order 96.

Vessels (other than passenger ships within special areas)

Sewage not comminuted or disinfected

  • Permitted as long as no less than 12 nautical miles from nearest land
  • Sewage originating from holding tanks, or sewage originating from spaces containing live animals is discharged at a moderate rate* while the ship is proceeding en route at a speed not less than 4 knots

* The rate of discharge shall be approved by the administration based upon standards approved by the organisation. Recommended standards for the rate of discharge of sewage from ships can be found in Marine Order 96.

Vessels (other than passenger ships within special areas) on international voyages to and continuing in Australian waters

Treated sewage effluent discharged through an approved sewage treatment plant (STP) certified by the administration to meet the operational requirements referred to in regulation 9.1.1 of MARPOL Annex IV

Permitted provided:

  • Effluent does not produce visible floating solids nor cause discolouration of the surrounding water.
  • Local laws may prohibit discharges in ports.

Additionally:

  • When within port limits, check with port authority as permission may be required.
  • All vessels should ensure that the STP is operating at optimum performance when in Australian waters.

Food or biological waste removed from filtration units of vessels on international voyages is prohibited from discharge within 12 nautical miles from land (Department of Agriculture and Water Resources requirements).

Passenger ships within special areas*

* further information on special areas can be found in circular MEPC.1/Circ.778/Rev.1

Treated sewage effluent from new passenger ships on, or after 1 January 2016 and for existing passenger ships on, or after 1 January 2018

Permitted provided:

  • The ship has in operation an approved sewage treatment plant certified by the administration to meet the operational requirements referred to in regulation 9.2.1 of MARPOL Annex IV.
  • Effluent does not produce visible floating solids nor cause discolouration of the surrounding water.

Note: local laws may prohibit discharges in ports.

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park vessels on international voyages to and continuing in Australian waters

All sewage discharges

In accordance with Annex IV requirements and where applicable with any additional restrictions imposed as conditions of a GBRMP permit.

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park

Vessels on domestic voyages

All sewage discharges

  • Recommended to comply with MARPOL Annex IV.
  • Or, in accordance with requirements of Part 3A of the GBRMPA Regulations (93A-93G) for both treated and untreated sewage.
  • And, where applicable, in accordance with any additional restrictions imposed as conditions of a GBRMP permit.

Queensland State waters (small vessels/state registered and recreational)

If vessel does not have a sewage treatment system on board, options include:

  • Using onshore toilet facilities whenever possible
  • Using a portable toilet to be later emptied to a sewerage/septic system.

Retain sewage in onboard holding tank for pumping out to shore facilities.

  • If a vessel has 16 or more persons on board, no discharge of untreated sewage is permitted anywhere in Queensland waters.
  • If a vessel has 7 to 15 persons on board, no discharge of untreated sewage is permitted within 1 nautical miles of a reef or the mean low water mark of an island or the mainland.
  • No discharge of untreated sewage is permitted within 1 nautical miles of aquaculture fisheries resources, or within 0.5 nautical miles of a wharf or jetty other than a jetty that is a marina.

Air emissions MARPOL Annex VI—applies to all vessels (table 4)

Vessel or voyage type or area

Sub–category

Discharge conditions

All vessels

Ozone-depleting substances

  • Prohibited
 

Nitrogen oxides (NOx)

  • Operation of diesel engines greater than 130 kilowatts prohibited unless engine is certified to meet prescribed emission standards.
  • New Engines where rated engine speed is less than 130 rpm1:
    • Tier I – 17 gram/kilowatts from 1 January 2000
    • Tier II – 14.4 gram/kilowatts from 1 January 2011
    • Tier III – 3.4 gram/kilowatts from 1 January 2016 in NOx emission control areas (NECAs)
    Existing engines where rated engine speed less than 130 rpm1 (installed on ship on or between 1 January 1990 to 1 January 2000) 
    • 17 gram/kilowatts for diesel engine with power output greater than 5000 kilowatt and displacement per cylinder => 90 litres
    • Approved method by administration
 

Sulphur oxides

  • Sulphur content of fuel oil not to exceed 3.5%.2
  • From 1 January 2020 sulphur content of fuel oil not to exceed 0.5%
 

Incinerators

Shipboard Incinerators installed after 1 January 2000 must be type approved and certified to meet prescribed emission standards.

Certain substances are prohibited for incineration. Please refer to Regulation 16 of MARPOL Annex VI for further information.

Shipboard incineration of polyvinyl chlorides (PVCs) is only permitted in shipboard incinerators that are type approved.

Shipboard incineration must only take place in a shipboard incinerator except for incineration of sewage sludge and sludge oil generated during normal operation of a ship, which may also take place in the main or auxiliary power plant or boilers, but in those cases, must not take place inside ports, harbours and estuaries.

  1. Emission limits where rated engine speed is greater than or equal to 130 kilowatt are provided in Regulation 13 of MARPOL Annex VI.
  2. Fuel oil to be purchased from a registered supplier.

Noxious liquid substances MARPOL Annex II and harmful packaged substances MARPOL Annex III (table 5)

Vessel or voyage type or area

Sub-category

Discharge conditions

Chemical and product tankers to which Annex II applies

Category X,Y and Z

Before any prewash or discharge into the sea is carried out, the relevant tank must be unloaded in accordance with the ship’s procedures and arrangements manual.

 

Category X

Tanks to be prewashed before leaving unloading port, residues to be pumped ashore until the concentration of the substance in the effluent is 0.1% by weight or less, as indicated by analysis of samples of the effluent taken by an AMSA marine surveyor. When the required concentration level has been achieved, remaining tank washings to be discharged to the reception facility until the tank is empty. Appropriate entries to be made in the cargo record book and endorsed by the AMSA marine surveyor. Any water subsequently added may be discharged if:

  • Ship is proceeding en route at a speed of at least 7 knots
  • Discharge is below the waterline

Ship is greater than 12 nautical miles from nearest land and depth of water is greater than or equal to 25 m.

 

High-viscosity or solidifying category Y

Prewash in accordance with Appendix VI to MARPOL Annex II, residues to be pumped ashore until tank is empty. Any water subsequently added may be discharged if:

  • Ship is proceeding en route at a speed of at least 7 knots
  • Discharge is below the waterline

Ship is greater than 12 nautical miles from nearest land and depth of water is greater than 25 metres.

 

Category Y
Category Z

Provided the tanks are unloaded in accordance with the Procedures and Arrangements Manual, residues may be discharged if:

  • Ship is proceeding en route at a speed of at least 7 knots
  • Discharge is below the waterline1
  • Ship is greater than 12 nautical miles from nearest land and depth of water is greater than 25 metres.

If tanks are not unloaded in accordance with the Procedures and Arrangements Manual, a prewash is to be carried out and the resulting tank washings are to be discharged ashore.

MARPOL Harmful Packaged Substances (Annex III)

Jettisoning of harmful packaged substances into the sea

  • Prohibited, except where necessary for the purpose of securing the safety of the ship or saving life at sea
  1. For ships constructed before 1 January 2007, the discharge into the sea of residues of substances in category Z below the waterline is not mandatory.

Additional local requirements (table 6)

Vessel or voyage type or area Sub-category Discharge conditions

Within port limits

Any discharge within port limits.

  • Comply with relevant Annexes of MARPOL

AND

  • Check with relevant port authority.

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park

Permit is required for cruise ships and other vessels conducting specific operations within the Marine Park—for example dredges, pipeline laying vessels.

  • Conditions may be imposed as listed on the permit—for example there may be requirements imposed for sewage discharges that are stricter than MARPOL requirements.

Environmentally sensitive sea areas (ESSA) as marked upon navigation charts

ESSA have specific environmental protective measures that apply for commercial tourism, fishing, mining, scientific and recreational purposes. Permits are required for such activities are issued by the Director of National Parks.

  • No restrictions upon shipping activities, or commercial vessel transit undertaking voyages in conformance with MARPOL and SOLAS
  • Vessels should note the environmental significance of the area and take extra care while transiting through these areas.

 

Last updated: 

Thursday 8 February 2018