Managing solid bulk cargo residues in Australian waters

All ships must follow the requirements of MARPOL Annex V when discharging cargo residue.

Cargo residues are the remains, excess or spillage of cargo which is:

  • not covered by other Annexes of MARPOL
  • on the deck or in the holds of a ship
  • in wet or dry conditions or mixed in washwater
  • after loading, unloading and onboard handling. 

Cargo residues do not include:

  • cargo dust remaining on the deck after sweeping or dust on the external surfaces of the ship
  • cargo material contained in the cargo hold bilge water, provided that the cargo material is not harmful to the marine environment and the bilge water is discharged from a loaded hold through the ships’ fixed piping bilge drainage system. 

Ships that are at anchorage for a period of time with empty holds may discharge hold bilge water as long as the water is not directly related to a hold cleaning operation.

Cargo residues must be completely cleaned prior to sailing and either delivered to the intended cargo space or to a waste reception facility. Shipboard areas where spillage is most common must be protected so that residues can be easily recovered. 

Read discharge standards and nearest land under MARPOL for more information.

Classification and declaration of cargo residues

Solid bulk cargoes other than grain are required to be classified in accordance with Appendix I of MARPOL Annex V, and declared by the shipper as to whether or not they are harmful to the marine environment. 

Section 4.2.3 of the International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes (IMSBC) Code should be referred to for information on the required declaration. AMSA provides an example of a suitable shipper’s declaration for solid bulk cargoes. 

Cargo residues harmful to the marine environment

Cargo residues classified as harmful to the marine environment cannot be discharged into the sea and must be discharged to an onshore waste reception facility

Cargo residues not classified as harmful to the marine environment can be discharged into the sea provided that the ship is en route and no less than 12 nautical miles from the nearest land. 

Onboard Waste Management 

Minimisation of cargo residue wash down and discharge should form part of the ship’s garbage management plan. Garbage placards should also be displayed, and can be requested via our publications order form

Wash down

The wash down of cargo residues from the deck of a vessel within the 12 nautical miles limit is allowed in the following cases: 

  • to clear a helicopter landing area and surroundings 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 cause a serious safety hazard to personnel if spillages are not cleaned from deck areas, adjacent walkways and working areas. 

You must record these in the exceptional discharge or loss of garbage section of the Garbage Record Book as evidence. 


If discharging cargo residues from a ship is necessary to secure the safety of a ship and those on board, or to save lives at sea, these restrictions do not apply. Should an emergency discharge occur, you will be required to provide evidence in your defence

Last updated: 20 January 2021