What are the rules for management of garbage at sea?

Domestic commercial vessel owners and operators are responsible for managing the waste generated on board their vessels, including garbage discharges.

The International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) Annex V prohibits the discharge of all garbage into the sea and applies by law here in Australia.

The regulations apply to all vessels operating in the marine environment, and includes commuter ferries, work boats, small tinnies and fishing trawlers.

The regulations prohibit the disposal of all garbage into the sea, except in limited circumstances.

Under MARPOL Annex V, garbage includes:

  • all kinds of food wastes
  • domestic and operational wastes
  • all plastics
  • cargo residues
  • incinerator ashes
  • cooking oil
  • fishing gear
  • animal carcasses
  • e-waste.

Prohibited discharges

Location Garbage discharge prohibition
Within 3 nautical miles from the nearest land All garbage discharge is prohibited, which includes the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) area and waters to 3 nautical miles from its outside boundary.
Outside 3 nautical miles from the nearest land and the GBR outer boundary All garbage is prohibited, except food wastes processed to less than 25mm.
Outside 12 nautical miles from the nearest land and the GBR outer boundary All garbage is prohibited, except unprocessed food wastes.

Note: The discharge of cooking oil at sea is prohibited.

You can download the guide here.