Marine Pollution Act

The Marine Pollution Act (MPA) has existed since 2012, but has never included recreational vessels in its definition, so has been only applied to commercial vessels and ships.

In March 2021, several amendments to the MPA came into effect. The most significant of those has been a redefinition of the vessel types (all called “ships” in the MPA) to which the MPA applies, which now captures recreational vessels.

In short, this means:

  • In terms of vessels, the MPA has different requirements for all vessels (including recreational vessels) depending on their passenger load (under or over 15 people) and size
  • The MPA now also covers inland waters, meaning the Act applies to virtually all navigable waters in NSW (previously the MPA only dealt with offshore waters from the coast to three nautical miles offshore)
  • The MPA now gives authorities the ability to automatically remove oil from abandoned and derelict ships without having to prove that it is likely to leak
  • Action can now be taken against any vessel if on-board sewage equipment is not in a satisfactory working order
  • If a pollution incident originally occurs outside of NSW waters, but drifts into NSW waters, the MPA can be used, even for pollution that originates outside its jurisdiction
  • Multiple parties may now be charged with offences under the MPA (i.e. owner, master, crew and even maintenance personnel can all be charged for a single offence)
  • Notices for pollution incidents will be issued under the MPA legislation—while the POEO Act will remain as a legislative tool, there will be no more notices issued under the POEO Act

Vessels will also be required to display a sticker (for vessels under 15m) or a placard (for vessels over 15m) stating that dumping of garbage is illegal. However, NSW Maritime will not initially be enforcing the presence of this notification until further notice.The MPA now completes a suite of legislation that includes the Ports and Maritime Administration Act, 1995 (PAMA), the Protection of the Environment Operations Act, 1997 (POEO) and the MPA. All of these acts apply across NSW and all NSW waters (including inland waters) and across all vessel types, including recreational and domestic commercial vessels, ships and paddlecraft.

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