Sewage, greywater and other discharge

Under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 (POEO Act), it’s an offence to pollute any waters, unless permitted under a licence issued by the Environment Protection Authority. Maritime officers can issue on-the-spot infringement notices of $7,500 to an individual, or $15,000 to a corporation where cases of pollution from vessels are detected.


The POEO Act is complemented by the Marine Pollution Regulation 2006. This regulation is designed to improve the management of sewage pollution from vessels and simplify the capacity requirements for sewage holding tanks.

Specific provisions of this regulation include:

  • The discharge of untreated sewage from vessels into navigable waters is prohibited, except into a waste collection facility such as a pump-out or on-shore toilet
  • Class 1 (passenger carrying) and Class 4 (hire and drive) vessels are required to be fitted with toilets and toilet waste holding tanks, or to have an approved plan of management for the disposal of waste
  • Certain commercial vessels (essentially those built after January 1 2005 and used on the Murray River or Sydney Harbour, or those belonging to either the passenger carrying or hire and drive classes and built after that date) must be fitted with grey water tanks
  • Marinas operating on a commercial basis in the Sydney Harbour locality (regardless of size) are required to provide adequate and accessible vessel waste collection facilities.

Pumpout facilities

The contents of vessel sewage and galley waste holding tanks must not be discharged into the water, but instead, discharged at a pumpout facility.

On-board greywater treatment systems

Greywater is discharged from shower or galley installations.

From 30 September 2011, commercial vessel operators, except those operating large vessels on Sydney Harbour and its tributaries, are able to use an on-board greywater treatment system that is compliant with Australian Standard AS 4995-2009.

These operators may continue to use a greywater holding tank, but now they have the choice of using a holding tank or a compliant on-board treatment system.

Recreational vessels

There are no specific requirements for recreational vessels. However, all vessel operators must ensure that they do not pollute.

Roads and Maritime Services recommends the installation of holding tanks, although owners of smaller vessels can use a portable toilet instead.

Planning your trip to take advantage of shore amenities is another way of preventing sewage from entering the waterways.

For information about public amenities, see the National Public Toilet Map.

More information

You can download a copy of the Marine Pollution Regulation at For more information, see Frequently asked questions on sewage from vessels.

Share this page: