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Protection of the sea conventions and legislation

Australia is a part of the International Maritime Organization — maritime safety and marine pollution prevention are more effective when carried out internationally.

International conventions and Commonwealth legislation

A global regulation system has been implemented by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to ensure ships are subject to uniform pollution standards whether they are on the high seas, in territorial waters or in port. Australia is a member of the IMO, because maritime safety and marine pollution prevention are more effective when carried out internationally. 

Australia has ratified the following international conventions, developed by the IMO, dealing specifically with ship-related marine pollution matters. Australia is very active at the IMO, influencing international ship safety, search and rescue protocols and marine environment standards and encouraging their effective implementation, which complements our own compliance regime applied to ships arriving in Australian ports.

Click on the conventions to see how they are implemented in Australian law.

International Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage 1992 (the Civil Liability Convention)

The Civil Liability Convention ensures that adequate compensation is available to persons who suffer oil pollution damage resulting from maritime incidents involving oil-carrying ships, even if the ship's insurance is exhausted. 

Implementation

The Commonwealth legislation giving effect to this convention is:

There is no complementary state or territory legislation.

International Convention on the Establishment of an International Fund for Compensation for Oil Pollution Damage 1992 (The 1992 Fund Convention)

(Also 2003 protocol to the International Convention on the Establishment of an International Fund for Compensation for Oil Pollution Damage 1992).

The Fund Convention provides funds for compensation when the Civil Liability Convention’s protections aren’t enough to cover the full cost of an incident.

Implementation

The Commonwealth legislation giving effect to this convention is:

There is no complementary state or territory legislation.

The Convention Relating to Intervention on the High Seas in Cases of Oil Pollution Casualties 1969 (The Intervention Convention)

The Intervention Convention affirms the right of a coastal State to take action to prevent, mitigate or eliminate damage from pollution by oil from upon a maritime casualty.

Implementation

The Commonwealth legislation giving effect to this convention is:

States and Territories (except Western Australia) have implemented complementary powers of intervention legislation by including provisions in the acts:

International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Cooperation 1990 (OPRC 90)

(Also 2000 protocol on preparedness, response and co-operation to pollution incidents by hazardous and noxious substances)

Parties to the OPRC are required to establish measures for dealing with pollution incidents, either nationally or in co-operation with other countries.

Implementation

Generally, the provisions of this Convention and Protocol did not require implementing legislation.

The only exception relates to shipboard oil pollution emergency plans, see:

The International Convention on Civil Liability for Bunker Oil Pollution Damage 2001

The Bunkers Convention was adopted to ensure that adequate, prompt, and effective compensation is available to persons who suffer damage caused by spills of oil, when carried as fuel in ships' bunkers.

Implementation

The Commonwealth legislation giving effect to this convention is the  Protection of the Sea (Civil Liability for Bunker Oil Pollution Damage) Act 2008 .

International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments 2004

The Ballast Water Management Convention aims to prevent the spread of harmful aquatic organisms from one region to another, by establishing standards and procedures for the management and control of ships' ballast water and sediments.

Implementation

The convention is implemented in legislation and enforced by the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment.

International Convention on the Control of Harmful Anti-fouling Systems on Ships 2001

The Convention prohibits the use of harmful organotins in anti-fouling paints used on ships and establishes a mechanism to prevent the potential future use of other harmful substances in anti-fouling systems.

Implementation

The Commonwealth legislation giving effect to this convention is the  Protection of the Sea (Harmful Anti-fouling Systems) Act 2006 .

The Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter 1972 (the London Convention).

Also the 1996 Protocol to the Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter 1972, the ‘London Protocol'.

The London Convention and London Protocol aim to take all practicable steps to prevent pollution of the sea by dumping of wastes and other matter by prohibiting the dumping of wastes at sea (with the exception of some wastes which may be dumped if granted a permit).

The convention is implemented in legislation and enforced by the >Department of Agriculture, and Water and the Environment.

Related information

Last updated: 9 May 2023