Marine Pollution Act

The Marine Pollution Act (MPA) is NSW’s key legislation for the regulation of marine pollution from vessels in NSW State waters.

In March 2021, several amendments to the MPA were made. The most significant of those was the inclusion of recreational vessels and the coverage of all NSW State waters under the MPA. In short, this means:

  • In terms of pollution prevention, the MPA has different requirements for vessels (including recreational vessels) depending on their passenger load and size. For example, vessels over 12 metres are required to display a sticker stating that throwing garbage overboard is illegal. Vessels capable of carrying 15 people or more are required to have a plan for the disposal of garbage. Stickers and plans will be available from Service NSW and Maritime offices.
  • The MPA now also covers inland waters, meaning the Act applies to virtually all navigable waters in NSW (previously the MPA only dealt with waters from the coast to three nautical miles offshore and port waters)
  • The MPA now gives authorities the ability to remove pollutants from abandoned and derelict vessels before a discharge can occur
  • Action can now be taken against any vessel if on-board sewage equipment is not in satisfactory working order

Boaters unfamiliar with the MPA should note that it has always meant that:

  • 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 be charged with offences under the MPA (i.e. owner, master, crew and even maintenance personnel can all be charged for a single incident)

For all current obligations and requirements, go to: Marine Pollution Act 2012  

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