Taking the garbage out: Latest amendments to Marpol Annex V on garbage from ships

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Since we last reported on MARPOL Annex V in May 2013 (see our previous article), there have been further amendments made to the Annex. These amendments are contained within the International Maritime Organisation’s (“IMO”) Resolution MEPC.277(70) and were adopted by the IMO Marine Environment Protection Committee (“MEPC”) in October 2016. They took effect on 1 March 2018 and require vessels to implement changes associated with the handling, management and record-keeping of garbage on-board. 

This article considers the main amendments to MARPOL Annex V and their practical implications.


The MARPOL Convention seeks to eliminate and reduce the amount of garbage discharged into the sea from ships. The current version of MARPOL Annex V came into force on 1 January 2013 and generally prohibits the discharge of all garbage into the sea. MARPOL Annex V applies to ships as well as to fixed and floating offshore installations.

Also introduced in 2013 was the prohibition of discharge or residues from solid bulk cargoes classified as harmful to the environment (“HME”), although the rules did not define mandatory criteria to classify cargoes as either HME or non-HME.

Scope of amendments

The main changes to Marpol Annex V can be summarised as follows:

>  The inclusion of specific criteria for classifying solid bulk cargoes as HME and a requirement for shippers of solid bulk cargoes (other than grain) to declare whether or not the cargo is classified as HME according to the criteria. The International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (“SOLAS”), along with the new appendix I of MARPOL Annex V, lay out the applicable classification criteria. Cargoes which are not harmful to the environment carry less stringent requirements on discharging than those defined as harmful. 

>  Under MARPOL Annex V, every ship of 400 gross tonnage and above and every ship certified to carry 15 or more persons engaged in international voyages is required to maintain a Garbage Record Book (“GRB”). The main change introduced by IMO Resolution MEPC.277(70), is that the GRB is now divided into Part I and Part II. GRB Part I should be used to record discharges of garbage from all types of vessel. This covers various substances such as plastics, food, domestic and operational waste, cooking oil and incinerator ashes. It also includes the new garbage category of e-waste i.e. electronic cards, gadgets, equipment, computers, printer cartridges, etc. generated on board.  GRB Part II should be used to record discharges of cargo residues from vessels carrying solid bulk cargoes, including both HME as well as non-HME cargo residues. Part I and Part II are to be produced as two separate record books (similar to Part I and Part II of the Oil Record Book required under MARPOL Annex I).

>  All ships must maintain GRB Part I. Ships that carry solid bulk cargoes will need to maintain GRB Parts I and Part II.  

>  The format of the GRB has also changed to specify whether a discharge was by way of incineration, discharge into the sea or discharge to a reception facility. Specific data about the discharge operation must also be entered.

>  Vessels are required to maintain on board for a period of two years: (i) an up-to-date GRB, for inspection by the authorities as well as; (ii) receipts from shore reception facilities.

>  The 2012 Guidelines for the implementation of MARPOL Annex V have been revoked and replaced by a new version (MEPC.295(71)) that aligns with the new requirements and also the relevant requirements of the Polar Code.


If they have not already done so, Vessel interests should ensure that their GRBs on-board are updated and in compliance with the amended Annex in order to avoid potentially substantial penalties for breaches.  Cover for MARPOL fines is usually discretionary and will only be reimbursed by a Club in exceptional circumstances.

Vessels’ Garbage Management Plans and Placards posted on-board should be checked and amended as necessary so as to display valid garbage disposal requirements. Crew members should be familiar with these requirements and have a clear understanding of the conditions allowing certain discharges.

The position remains that there is no definitive list of cargoes that are HME or non-HME. Accordingly, it is important for crews of vessels carrying solid bulk cargoes to continue to ensure that shippers’ cargo information states whether or not the cargo in question is HME, or not. The Shipper’s Declaration is required in accordance with Section 4.2 of the International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes Code (the “IMSBC Code”).  Advance preparation is key, given that some ports may not be able to receive and process all types of waste. In this regard, consideration should be given to minimising ship-generated residue/waste through on-board recycling and/or ensuring that hold cleaning at the end of discharge removes as much of the cargo as possible.

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