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Collection, storage, processing and disposal of ship generated garbage

Garbage means all kinds of victual, domestic and operational wastes generated during the regular operation of a ship and liable to be disposed of regularly or periodically. It does not include fresh fish and parts thereof or sewage. It also excludes substances and emissions prohibited or controlled under other Annexes to MARPOL.

Under the revised MARPOL Annex V, discharge of any garbage is now prohibited, except for those under special permissions. The document changes the past presumption that garbage can be ejected directly into the sea, taking into account the type of waste and the vessel's distance from shore. Nowadays, port reception facilities are to be considered the primary means of discharge, the only exception being food wastes, specific cargo residues, animal carcasses, and individual cleaning agents deemed as non-harmful to the marine environment. Cargo residues are remnants of any cargo material on board in cargo holds or tanks which remain after unloading procedures and cleaning operations are completed and includes excesses and spillage from loading or unloading.

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Cargo-associated waste means all materials which became waste as a result of use on board a ship for cargo stowage and handling, and includes dunnage, shoring, pallets, lining and packing materials, plywood, paper, cardboard, wire, and steel strapping. Operational waste means all maintenance waste, cargo associated waste and cargo residues except residues or waste from oil or oily mixture, noxious liquid substances, nonpolluting liquid substances or harmful substances in packaged form.

Plastics include synthetic ropes, synthetic fishing nets, plastic garbage bags, foam plastics and incinerator ashes from plastic products which may contain toxic or heavy metal residues.

Every ship of 100 gross tonnage and above, and every ship which is certified to carry 15 or more persons, must have a Garbage Management Plan. The plan should be adapted for individual ships and be available in the working language of the crew. The Master is to ensure that each new member of the crew receives training in the Garbage Management Plan. The plan is to be regularly reviewed, and the Master should check that the plan is being correctly adopted as part of his weekly inspections.

The ship's garbage is made up of distinct categories, some of which are addressed in MARPOL 73/78. Other categories may be addressed locally, nationally, or regionally, e.g., domestic, cargo associated, food, and maintenance waste. Each category should be evaluated separately to determine the best waste management. 'Operational wastes' means all solid waste (including slurries) not covered by other MARPOL Annexes that are collected onboard during routine maintenance or operations of a ship, or used for cargo stowage and handling. These include cleaning agents and additives contained in the cargo hold and external wash water. Under Annex V, garbage means all kinds of food wastes, domestic wastes, and operational wastes, all plastics, cargo residues, cooking oil, fishing gear, and animal carcasses generated during the regular operation of the ship.

For centuries seafarers threw their garbage over the side, probably with little harm done to the environment. The waste products of earlier days were mostly natural materials, biodegradable, and food for the creatures of the ocean. By contrast, new packaging products use materials that persist in the marine environment and require special processing onboard a ship before disposal. In recent years, pollution of the marine environment (which has both biological and economic repercussions) has become an increasingly sensitive issue, and increased public awareness of problems has prompted governments around the world to enact stricter laws to try and protect the planet.

All ships over 400 tons and above or certified to carry 15 persons or more must implement a planned garbage management system and maintain a Garbage Record Book. Annex V of MARPOL 73/78 designates what waste can and cannot be dumped at sea. It also introduces specific restrictions in some regions of the world's oceans, designated as Special Areas where the marine life is endangered. The ISM Code (1.2.1), to requires the ship to take measures to avoid damage to the environment .

The Garbage Management Plan intends to provide a systematic approach to the enforcement and control of garbage by the ships as required by MARPOL 73/78 Annex V / Regulation 9 (2). Instructions contained in a ship specific garbage management plan for the crew to follow a collection, storage, processing, and disposal of garbage, including the use of equipment on board. Efforts should be made to minimize the generation of garbage. Permitted food staff disposal at sea and should be landed wherever possible. In particular, cans/metal/glass (stowed in blue bins) should be landed wherever recycling facilities exist, instead of disposing at sea (even when permitted by MARPOL).

Training requirement

The garbage management plan requirements should be discussed with all new crew members during their familiarisation training. It will ensure that all personnel know the statutory requirements and fully understand their duties concerning the plan. The vessel should have signs posted, stating what substances can be disposed of overboard and the required distances from shore, however, no disposal should be made without the vessels' position being confirmed and the officer of the watch's approval being sought. It is especially critical when the vessel is navigating near to the coast or within designated special areas.

The garbage storage area should be positioned to ensure that the bins are protected from the sea. Only cargo residues that have not been classified as a marine pollutant should be discharged overboard. The cargo residues should only be in small quantities. Therefore every effort should be made to clean up and dispose of the residues while the vessel is in port or should, if practicable, be held onboard for disposal at an appropriate reception facility. When cargo residues are disposed of overboard, an entry must be made in the garbage record book for a category four waste. The entry must include the start and stop positions and an estimate of the quantity discharged. While reporting a breach of statutory regulation is likely to result in the vessel undergoing a follow-up investigation. Failure to promptly report such a breach to the appropriate authority could result in a detention, a fine, or withdrawal of certification.

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