USA ratifies international rules on air pollution from ships

The United States of America has become the 53rd state to ratify Annex VI of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL), with the deposition today of an instrument of ratification with the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

Annex VI, which was adopted in 1997 and entered into force in May 2005, regulates the discharge of atmospheric pollutants from ships. Among other things, it set, for the first time, limits on sulphur oxide (SOx) and nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from ships' exhausts; prohibited deliberate emissions of ozone-depleting substances and put a global cap on the sulphur content of fuel oil.

This latest ratification, which brings to 81.88 the percentage of gross world merchant shipping tonnage covered by the aforementioned regulations, comes as a detailed review of the provisions of Annex VI is reaching a conclusion.

It was the Torrey Canyon disaster of 1967 that focused the attention of the world on the real danger to the environment posed by the growth in tanker traffic. The Torrey Canyon ran aground while entering the English Channel and spilled her entire cargo of 120,000 tons of crude oil into the sea. This resulted in the biggest oil pollution incident ever recorded up to that time, and raised serious questions about measures to prevent oil pollution from ships.

IMO's response was swift. The Organization embarked on a multi-faceted, ambitious programme of work, which, culminated successfully in the adoption, in 1973, of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, now known universally as MARPOL. Thirty-five years later, albeit much expanded, amended and updated, the MARPOL Convention remains the most important international convention covering the prevention of pollution by ships.

Today, MARPOL has six separate annexes, which set out regulations dealing with pollution from ships by oil; by noxious liquid substances carried in bulk; by harmful substances carried by sea in packaged form; by sewage, by garbage; and with the prevention of air pollution from ships.

Briefing 44, 9 October 2008

For further information please contact:
Lee Adamson, Head, Public Information Services on 020 7587 3153 ( or
Natasha Brown, External Relations Officer on 020 7587 3274 (

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