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The challenge of optimizing onboard waste management

It is now almost three years since the revised Annex V of MARPOL 73/78 came into force and waste management onboard ships remains a challenging issue for many shipping companies. Even though there have been significant efforts already undertaken to ensure a higher level of environmental protection, achieve effective compliance with the strict regulations and embrace sound practices and techniques on a scale appropriate for commercial shipping, there are still many opportunities to further improve waste management processes.

Waste management still has a long way to go before we can consider it as a mission accomplished. Some key areas we could mention include:

  • The lack of adequate Reception Facilities in many ports and terminals,
  • difficulties in the handling of certain hazardous waste streams,
  • the shortage of storage means onboard,
  • the rather slack use of shipboard treatment technology,
  • the different priorities given by some port states to the disposal of some types of garbage.

It is now clear that the Garbage Management Plans developed according to the IMO Guidelines (MEPC.220 (63) need to address additional procedures and/or kinds of waste that fall into the operational or domestic origin categories and respond to new challenges or real situations. A few questions that still need answers are:

  • Can food waste be incinerated, where it is not permitted to be discharged into the sea and its long storage on board might create health hazards to the crew?
  • What kinds of waste should not be mixed and remain separated till their final disposal, to prevent risks to the seafarers and environmental damage by the dispersal of hazardous substances?
  • How can the minimum waste storage capacity of the ship be better calculated?
  • Is biological waste originated from various machinery cleaning on the vessel considered as garbage?
  • How to deal with empty containers that initially held a hazardous substance?

Environmentally-sound management of ship-generated garbage means taking all practicable steps to ensure that all potential waste streams are managed in a manner that will ensure the protection of human health and the environment against any adverse effects.

An integrated approach with the Garbage Management Plan is considered necessary to help promote pragmatic garbage management and allow for capacity or resources to be optimized and fully utilized. It should be noted that a well implemented waste management plan is also dependent on the interaction between the vessel and a number of external factors such as ship suppliers, operators of reception facilities, port authorities, etc.

How to comply with the requirements of the revised MARPOL Annex V

To support shipping companies in dealing with these issues Maritime Academy has revised its training course Optimizing Waste Management onboard – Operational and Technical Management Issues to provide detailed information and guidance on how to comply with the requirements of the revised MARPOL Annex V.

Through a detailed analysis of the regulations of the Annex and a presentation of the most significant obstacles its implementation has encountered since 2013, the course provides advice on the best available options. The course covers the most important aspects of the new regulations including

  • the new categorization of ship-generated garbage,
  • the requirements for discharging garbage at sea under certain conditions,
  • the procedures and means for collecting, storing, treating and disposing of garbage,
  • the use of treatment equipment,
  • the roles of officers and crew members and
  • the obligations for recordkeeping.

Advice is also given regarding pollution prevention options when designing a waste management system from zero, introducing measures such as reduction at source, recycling and treatment that can reduce the waste disposal needs, reduce the volume and toxicity of waste and finally ease some of the operational burdens, risk and liabilities of waste management.

For more information please have a look at our website or contact your local Maritime Academy directly.