MARPOL: shaping seafarer’s experiences for 50 years, and beyond

MARPOL: shaping seafarer’s experiences for 50 years, and beyond

Jul. 11 2023 - 3 min

The International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) is widely implemented. MARPOL, its Annexes and Protocol have now been ratified by a large number of governments – more than 160 countries have signed MARPOL 1973/1978. It is a landmark convention that shows the good the maritime industry can achieve when working towards a common goal. Foremost in answering this rallying call against pollution are the seafarers navigating our oceans every day.

All about MARPOL

It was once common belief that the ocean was so vast it could not be impacted by pollution. But around the mid-20th century, not long after the establishment of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), evidence of a growing awareness of human-driven marine pollution began to appear in regulations. These changes were galvanized by high-profile tanker groundings and oil spills in the 1960s and by late 1973, MARPOL was born.

Since then, six MARPOL Annexes have entered into force, preventing pollution from oil spills, noxious liquids, harmful substances, sewage, garbage and air pollutants. And as MARPOL expands, seafarers are increasingly implicated in protecting our oceans.

Oceans Worth Protecting: seafarers on the front line against pollution

MARPOL directly influences the way seafarers operate and live life onboard ships. By setting operational standards, MARPOL also contributes to improving working conditions for seafarers – as onboard practices come under scrutiny for their ecological integrity, safety practices also improve. The MARPOL requirements for the handling, storage and disposal of all kinds of potential pollutants have also led to increased crew training, vital for transmitting best practices throughout the industry.

There are few better placed in the maritime industry to raise awareness and speak to the enormous value of our oceans than seafarers. This year’s International Day of the Seafarer saw crews take to social media to share images and experiences from their days at sea under the hashtag #OceansWorthProtecting.

The campaign demonstrated the scope of work being done at sea to put the IMO’s regulations into practice. Posts have focused on alternative fuels and energy efficiency to reach eventual zero-emissions shipping, avoiding plastic pollution and other threats. Throughout all of them ran a single connecting thread: the deep personal connection and appreciation seafarers feel for their environment.

A shared drive to protect the oceans

Focusing on MARPOL as the theme for this International Day of the Seafarer – and as the IMO’s overarching 2023 theme – highlights the extent to which unity is needed to make a difference to the marine environment. It stands as a clear illustration of how the values underpinning IMO regulations are shared and enacted by the people on the ground in the industry. And it shows how each individual can contribute towards a shared goal.

At Bureau Veritas, we recognize the valuable contribution of seafarers to the protection and health of our oceans. We are united with them in their passion for the sea and share their drive to protect it for future generations to enjoy. We will continue to partner across the industry to uphold the standards set by MARPOL, and contribute to its further expansion to keep our seas clean.