Home Resources Legal Updates February 2019

The Merchant Shipping (Prevention of Oil Pollution) Regulations 2019

12 February 2019

These Regulations come into force on 1st March 2019 and apply a series of internationally agreed technical standards to UK flagged vessels and foreign flagged vessels which aim to reduce oil pollution from ships. They bring in measures to ensure oil tankers are safely built and operated and are constructed to reduce the amount of oil spilled in the event of an accident.

Annex I of The International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL), has been amended as a result of new developments in design and construction, as well as new attitudes and events that have occurred. These include:

  • The strengthening of a ship’s pump room protection
  • New design, construction and location of oil fuel tanks
  • New software technologies to aid ship stability
  • Changes to oil pollution emergency plans
  • Changes to outflow performance requirements

References to specific provisions of Annex I, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) Code for Recognised Organisations and the Polar Code are references to the most up to date versions. This removes the need for further amendments to be made to the Regulations as they are updated.

These Regulations implement a series of duties applicable to

  • Oil tankers of 150 Gross-registered Tonnage (GT) and above; and
  • Ships of 400 GT and above

Surveys, certificates and oil record book
Ships must have had a survey and hold a valid IOPP/UKOPP Certificate in order to proceed to or remain at sea.

Control of discharge of oil
Ships and oil tankers are only able to discharge oil and oily mixtures if the ship is en route, the mixture is filtered and does not contain more than 15 parts per million. Discharging oil and oily mixtures in the Antarctic area and Artic water and the discharge of chemicals or other substances in quantities which are harmful to the marine environment is completely prohibited. 

Construction, equipment and operation requirements
This covers the requirements for the ships and oil tankers. They must meet the requirements of the Regulations of Annex I. Ships weighing less than 400 GT are not required to meet the requirements set out in Annex I, but must be equipped to retain oil and oily mixtures on board for subsequent discharge or to discharge of them correctly.

Offshore Installations
Offshore installations which are involved in the exploration, exploitation or associated offshore processing of sea-bed mineral resources must comply with the requirements of these Regulations and Annex I as applicable to ships.

Oil pollution emergency plan
All ships and oil tankers must have an oil pollution emergency plan on board which has been approved by the Secretary of State and meets the guidelines from the Marine Environment Protection Committee of the IMO.

Ships in polar waters
Ships operating in polar waters have to comply with the environmental provisions in the introduction and Chapter 1 of part II-A of the Polar Code.

The Certifying Authority has the power to inspect a ship and its equipment, any part of the ship, any articles on board, and any documentation carried in the ship.