INTERTANKO very much welcomed the news this week that Liberia has ratified Annex VI to the MARPOL Convention, which is a significant step forward for this most important piece of international legislation. The Liberian Register is to be congratulated for again demonstrating its responsible leadership in such matters.

MARPOL 73/78 is the International Convention for Pollution Protection from Ships. In 1997, IMO extended the scope of the MARPOL 73/78 to also include protection from air pollution from ships’ commercial activity. This instrument, known as The Protocol of 1997, or more simply Annex VI to the MARPOL Convention, was adopted and signed by all Parties to MARPOL Convention present to the IMO International Conference of Parties to MARPOL 73/78.


The 1997 Protocol has a provision that in case the MARPOL Annex VI is not ratified by a sufficient number of countries of an aggregate registered tonnage of over 50% of the world’s merchant fleet by October 2002, then the Parties to MARPOL could revisit the enforcement conditions.


Although not wishing to speculate on Governments’ reasons for not ratifying Annex VI, INTERTANKO lists below some of the significant consequences if Annex VI is not ratified within the time frame agreed.


Limits of sulphur content in bunkers

Lack of enforcement of Annex VI could lead to Regional and National restrictions and bunkers with sulphur limits that might be beyond the industry’s capabilities to produce.


Limits on nitrogen oxides (NOx)

Should Annex VI not enter into force in due time, there are indications that some Governments might consider either renegotiating some of the provisions within the current instrument, such as limits on Nox, or proceeding to implement national regulations that could contain different standards than those to which newer engines have been built.


Quality of bunkers

MARPOL Annex VI is the only real piece of legislation which would bring standards up to the level required to ensure that ships do not suffer a black out situation due to low quality bunkers.


Further details of these consequences can be viewed here


INTERTANKO would therefore strongly encourage Flag States to ratify MARPOL Annex VI as soon as possible. Ratification by flags such as Greece, Cyprus, Malta, and Panama would ensure the tonnage needed.


Unilateral legislation might reduce to some extent the local air pollution from ships, but this would not have a global effect on atmospheric pollution. In addition, fragmented legislation would certainly raise significantly the possibility of accidents and failures to the complex operations and usage of power/propulsion systems on ships.


By announcing their intention to ratify Annex VI, the Liberian Flag State has demonstrated their responsibility to conform to uniform international standards and expressed the Flag States’ support for international regulations limiting curbs on vessel-source air emissions.


Contact: Dragos Rauta, on email: