The International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, 1973 (MARPOL Convention), is concerned with preserving the marine environment through the prevention of pollution by oil and other harmful substances and the minimization of accidental discharge of such substances.
Its technical content is laid out in six Annexes, the first five of which were adopted by the 1973 Convention, as modified by a 1978 Protocol. These Annexes cover pollution of the sea by oil, by noxious liquid substances in bulk, by harmful substances in packaged form, by sewage from ships, and by garbage from ships. Annex VI was adopted by a further Protocol in 1997 and covers air pollution from ships.
As a specialised agency of the United Nations, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) is the global standard-setting authority for the safety, security and environmental performance of international shipping. Its main role is to create a regulatory framework for the shipping industry that is fair and effective, universally adopted and universally implemented.
In other words, its role is to create a level playing field so that ship operators cannot address their financial issues by simply cutting corners and compromising on safety, security and environmental performance. This approach also encourages innovation and efficiency.
Shipping is a truly international industry, and it can only operate effectively if the regulations and standards are themselves agreed, adopted and implemented on an international basis. And IMO is the forum at which this process takes place.