Garbage from vessels

Garbage can be fatal for marine animals and hazardous for recreational boaters and the fishing industry. Rope and plastic material may get caught in propeller shafts or block water intakes causing major damage, expensive repairs and loss of income while vessels are repaired.

Protection of the Environment (Operations) Act

Under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 (POEO Act), it’s an offence to pollute any waters in NSW, unless permitted under an environment protection licence issued by the Environment Protection Authority. Garbage from vessels should be stored on board and disposed of responsibly once you’re back on shore.

International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships

Annex V of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL 73/78) requires that certain vessels make specific provisions for garbage disposal.

The law does permit the disposal of certain types of garbage at sea, but there are strict requirements on where and how this can be done. Large vessels with specialised grinding/shredding equipment are authorised to discharge certain types of garbage when they’re beyond a specific distance from land.

Nevertheless, all boat operators should be aware of two basic MARPOL principles:

  1. No plastics thrown into the sea
  2. No garbage discharged within 12 nautical miles from the nearest land.

Garbage disposal placards

If your vessel is 12 metres or more in length, you’re required to display a garbage disposal placard on your vessel, where it’s visible to crew and passengers.

The recommended wording for the placards can be found on the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) website.

Garbage management plans

Annex V of MARPOL requires that certain vessels develop and follow a garbage management plan and be fitted with the necessary equipment outlined in the plan.
This requirement applies to you if your vessel is certified to carry 15 persons or more, or is 400 gross tons or more.
Guidelines for the development of Garbage management plans can be found on the International Maritime Organization website.

Garbage Record Books

If your vessel is over 400 tons, you’ll need to enter details of every garbage incineration or disposal in a Garbage Record Book.

The record book, and any receipt for using a waste reception facility in port, must be kept for two years and be available for inspection by authorities.

For guidance and more information, see the AMSA website. 

International voyages

If you intend to take your vessel on an international voyage, additional requirements relating to MARPOL Annex V will apply. For details about these requirements, see the AMSA website.

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