The Convention on the Protection
of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic
(the OSPAR Convention)
North Sea Conferences
Convention on the Prevention of Marine
Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter,
1972 (London Convention)
International Convention on the Prevention
of Pollution from Ships, 1973, as modified by the
Protocol of 1978 relating thereto (MARPOL 73/78)
The Convention on the Protection of the Marine
Environment of the North-East Atlantic (the OSPAR
The OSPAR Convention came into force on 25 March
1998 and replaced the 1972 Oslo Convention on Waste
Dumping at Sea and the 1974 Paris Convention on
Pollution of the North Sea and Adjacent Areas from
Land-Based Sources. The original Oslo and Paris
Conventions were administered by the Oslo and Paris
Commissions and these also ceased to exist when
the OSPAR Commission, commonly abreviated to OSPARCOM,
was created to administer the new Convention. There
is considerable continuity in the work of OSPARCOM
from the work of the former Commissions.
The OSPAR Convention requires signatory countries,
including the UK and the European Union, to prevent
and, where possible, eliminate pollution of the
marine environment (previous Conventions merely
required a reduction in pollution). The text of
the new Convention places particular emphasis on
the use of the 'polluter
and the 'precautionary approach'. The Convention places particular emphasis
on preventing pollution from diffuse sources and,
to this end, a list of substances contributing to
diffuse pollution has been identified as priority
substances for control (Appendix).
The Convention's goals are to be achieved by the
use of Action Plans that prioritise the most polluting
substances and industries and require the application
of Best Available Technology (BAT) and Best Environmental
Practice (BEP) to eliminate pollution. BAT will
be applied to industrial sources whilst BEP will
be used to control pollution from diffuse sources.
BEP will include increased use of labelling to indicate
the polluting potential of products to purchasers,
the introduction of collection and recycling systems
and the use of economic instruments. Other areas
covered by the Convention include:
- a prohibition on waste incineration at sea;
- waste dumping at sea will be prohibited, except
for dredged materials, inert materials of a natural
origin, fish waste from processing operations
and dumping from vessels and aircraft. These exceptions
will be banned at the end of 2004. Dumping of
sewage sludge at sea was banned from the end of
1998 in line with the Urban Waste Water Treatment
- the dumping of waste from offshore installations
is to be prohibited. BAT and BEP must be applied
to eliminate other sources of pollution;
- contracting parties will be required to make
information on the state of the sea available
to the public, including activities affecting
it and control measures to prevent pollution.
This requirement is in line with the EU's
Freedom of Information Directive;
- the new Convention tightens up the legal basis
for implementing measures agreed under its auspices.
Decisions will be binding on countries that voted
for them, whilst recommendations will be non-binding.
Both are to be agreed unanimously or, where this
is not possible, by a three-quarter majority vote;
- signatory countries are required to provide
information on their compliance with the Convention.
- the Convention lays down a process for resolving
disputes about transboundary pollution.
Implementation of any actions agreed under the
Convention requires adoption of UK legislation.
Following a meeting of Ministers of signatory countries
in Sintra, Portugal, on 23 July 1998 within the
framework of OSPARCOM, a statement was released
detailing some priorities for action in the immediate
future. The issues meriting further action were:
Ecosystems and Biological Diversity.
Radioactive Substances and Eutrophication.
Perhaps the most significant of these issues for
UK marine waters was the commitment made by Government
to be bound by the agreement to 'ensure
that discharges, emissions and losses of radioactive
substances are reduced by the year 2020 to levels
where the additional concentrations in the marine
environment above historic levels, resulting from
such discharges, emissions and losses, are close
to zero.' This agreement will have greatest impact
on the composition of permitted discharges from
Sellafield and Dounreay.
At Sintra, OSPAR member states also committed themselves
- ending all opt-outs on the sea dumping of nuclear
- banning the dumping of all steel offshore installations.
North Sea Conferences
Concern about the quality of the North Sea resulted
in a series of Conferences of the Environment Ministers
of countries bordering the North Sea. The decisions
reached at these Conferences have had a significant
impact on the development of policy and legislation
for the protection of the aquatic environment in
Western Europe. There have been four Conferences
to date and some outstanding commitments remain
from the Third Ministerial Conference held in the
Hague in 1990 (see Appendix
for a summary of commitments). One of the commitments
undertaken by the UK was to reduce the inputs of
potentially dangerous substances, subsequently known
as the Red List (see Appendix). At the Fourth Ministerial
Conference held in Esjberg in June 1995, Ministers
maintained their commitment to reach the reduction
targets set by the Third Conference as soon as possible.
They agreed to ensure that all permits covering
hazardous substances are at least in accordance
with internationally agreed BAT (processes) or BEP
(activities) by the year 2000. Ministers also agreed
to take action to phase out the use of the following
hazardous substances by promoting the use of less-
or non-hazardous alternatives:
- highly chlorinated short-chained paraffins;
- musk xylenes;
- nonyl phenols and nonyl phenolethoxylates, and
related substances; and
- brominated flame retardants.
The next conference will be held in Norway at some
date during 2000-2002.
Implementation of agreements reached at Ministerial
Conferences also requires adoption of UK legislation
and/or revision of consents.
Convention on the Prevention of
Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other
Matter, 1972 (London Convention)
The provisions of the London Convention are global
in nature and prohibit the dumping of certain hazardous
materials, require a special permit for the dumping
of a number of other identified materials and a
prior general permit for other wastes or matter.
The Convention also bans the dumping of low-level
radioactive waste and the incineration of industrial
wastes at sea and is administered by the International
Marine Organisation (IMO).
A further revision of the Convention (the 1996
Protocol) has been agreed and ratified by the UK
the dumping of any wastes or other matter with the
exception of those listed in Annex I' (Dredged material, sewage sludge, fish waste
or material resulting from industrial fish processing
operations, vessels and platforms or other man-made
structures at sea is administered by the International
Maritime Organisation (IMO), inert, inorganic geological
material, organic material of natural origin, and
bulky items, primarily comprising iron, steel, concrete
and similar unharmful materials). The 1996 Protocol
has been ratified by 4 states and requires ratification
by 26 countries before it enters into force.
Some of the provisions of the London Convention
were incorporated in the Food and Environment Protection
Act (FEPA) 1985 and other provisions are covered
by other Conventions or international agreements
with a more limited geographical scale of application
(OSPAR and North Sea Conferences).
International Convention on the
Prevention of Pollution from Ships, 1973, as modified
by the Protocol of 1978 relating thereto (MARPOL
The provisions of MARPOL 73/78 are global in nature
and have been adopted by many countries, including
the UK. The objective of the measures introduced
in the MARPOL 73/78 Convention is to regulate and
minimise pollution from ships, ashore and afloat,
by oil and other harmful substances. The Convention
is administered by the International Maritime Organisation
(IMO) through its Marine Environmental Protection
Committee. MARPOL 73/78 deals with the main forms
of ship generated waste in five specific annexes:
- Noxious liquid substances in bulk
- Harmful substances carried by sea in packaged
- Sewage from ships
- Garbage from ships
- Air pollution from ships (under development)
Annexes I, II, IV and V provide specific requirements
for the handling and discharge of ship generated
wastes and these Annexes are currently in force.
Annex IV (Sewage fom ships) is not currently in
force but has been signed up to by many member states,
including the UK. The provisions of this Annex will
apply to ships over 200 tonnes gross or a ship carrying
more than 10 persons.
In 1998, the Marine Environmental Protection Committee
of the IMO agreed to draft mandatory regulations
to phase out the use of toxic antifoulant paints
containing organotins, such as tributyltin (TBT),
and to propose a timetable for their prohibition.
They also agreed to prepare a draft Assembly Resolution
for adoption at the 21st Assembly in November 1999
which would urge member states to encourage the
use of alternatives to organotin antifouling systems
pending the entry into force of the mandatory instrument.
One option for the introduction of the mandatory
legal instrument is the adoption of a new annex
to MARPOL 73/78.
The provisions of MARPOL 73/78 are translated into
UK legislation in the Merchant Shipping Acts and
Regulations. Further information on the implications
of MARPOL 73/78 on Port and Harbour Operations are
contained in ABP Research Ltd (1999).