International regulations for the prevention of pollution by sewage from ships enter into force on 27 September 2003 - nearly 30 years after their adoption. The regulations are contained in the optional Annex IV of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, 1973, as modified by the Protocol of 1978 relating thereto (MARPOL 73/78). Annex IV contains a set of regulations regarding discharge of sewage into the sea, ships' equipment and systems for the control of sewage discharge, provision of facilities at ports and terminals for the reception of sewage, and requirements for survey and certification. It includes a model International Sewage Pollution Prevention Certificate to be issued by national shipping administrations to ships under their jurisdiction. Annex IV is optional to Parties ratifying the MARPOL Convention, but concerns were raised at IMO during the 1990s that Annex IV was not receiving sufficient ratifications to achieve entry into force. The turning point for its entry into force was the decision of the Marine Environment Protection Committee
(MEPC) in March 2000, at its 44th session, to approve a revised text of Annex IV, with the objective of making the Annex less restrictive and to enhance its chance of entering into force as soon as possible for the purpose of protecting the marine environment. The revised Annex IV is scheduled to be adopted at the MEPC's 51st session in March 2004 (the revised Annex can only be adopted when the existing Annex IV enters into force.) The MEPC also agreed that the provisions of the revised Annex IV of MARPOL 73/78 should be implemented upon the entry into force of the existing Annex IV of MARPOL 73/78. Resolution MEPC.88(44) resolves that "the Parties to Annex IV of MARPOL 73/78 should implement the revised Annex IV of MARPOL 73/78 immediately after entry into force of the existing Annex IV of MARPOL 73/78, with a view to avoiding the creation of a dual treaty regime between the existing and the revised Annex IV of MARPOL 73/78".
The MEPC, at its 49th session (July 2003), recognized that although the revised Annex IV would be circulated for adoption by MEPC 51 in early 2004, the revised Annex IV would only become effective in July 2005 in accordance with the amendment procedures stipulated in MARPOL 73/78. To avoid the possibility of confusion as to which text - either the existing or revised Annex IV - should be applied among Parties to the Annex, the Committee reconfirmed by MEPC/Circ.408 that Parties are recommended to apply the revised Annex IV upon the entry into force of the existing Annex IV. However, in order to avoid confusion among Parties to Annex IV, the MEPC agreed to request any Parties to Annex IV which may not be able to modify their national legislation to implement the revised Annex IV until its entry into force (anticipated in July 2005):
· not to apply, for the purpose of port State control, requirements of the existing Annex IV to ships of foreign flag falling under those categories of ships which will be exempted from application in the revised Annex IV; and
· not to apply any punitive measures for such ships during the transitional period from the date of entry into force of the existing Annex IV until the date of entry into force of the revised Annex IV.
Main provisions of the revised Annex IV
The revised Annex IV applies to new and existing ships engaged in international voyages, which are of 400 tons gross tonnage and above or are certified to carry more than 15 persons. Existing ships shall comply with the provisions of the revised Annex IV five years after the date of entry into force of the Annex.
Every ship to which Annex IV applies shall be equipped with either a sewage treatment plant or a sewage comminuting and disinfecting system or a sewage holding tank.
The discharge of sewage into the sea is prohibited, except when the ship:
· has in operation an approved sewage treatment plant; or
· is discharging comminuted and disinfected sewage using an approved system at a distance of more than three nautical miles from the nearest land; or
· is discharging sewage which is not comminuted or disinfected at a distance of more than 12 nautical miles from the nearest land.
When a Party to Annex IV requires ships operating in the waters under its jurisdiction and visiting ships to comply with the above-mentioned discharge requirements then it shall ensure the provision of adequate facilities at ports and terminals for the reception of sewage.