Maritime Environmental Regulations

Chris Riley by Chris Riley Updated on July 30, 2019. In nauticalknowhow



Besides our search and rescue mission Coast Guard Station Fort Pierce is responsible for enforcing all federal laws and regulations on our coastal waters. These regulations include the interdiction of drugs and other illegal contraband, as well as enforcing boating safety and fishery regulations. Our enforcement authority also includes federal maritime environmental regulations.

Today, I’d like to discuss an important environmental regulation. This regulation, MARPOL Annex V, which is implemented by 33 CFR 151, is designed to protect the marine environment from various types of garbage.

Early in my Coast Guard career, some twenty years ago, when plastic six pack rings were common place, I can remember encountering many marine birds with these plastic rings wrapped around their necks. In one case the bird had continued to grow after getting entangled, causing the plastic to cut into the birds neck. Unable to catch and save it from its predicament, I’m sure the unfortunate animal experienced a slow and painful death.

Today, I and my boat crews continue to observe quite a bit of garbage adrift on our coastal waters. We are constantly picking up the larger non-biodegradable pieces. If we were to pick up every styrofoam cup that is adrift out there we would not get much else done. Plastic is a big threat to all marine life. There are many species that mistake it for food. Animal’s digestive tracts do not work well when coated with plastic.

The floating trash includes quite a variety. In one case, my boat crew actually had to haul a refrigerator out of the ocean from some ten miles off shore. This was not only a threat to the marine environment but was also a hazard to navigation. It could have easily sent a wooden or fiberglass hull to the bottom with its occupants.

I am very confident that the majority of us who go down to the sea in ships respect the marine environment, and keep our trash on board until back in port. Those that don’t need to. Our sensitive marine environment is a very precious resource. Please remember that we are only visitors to this beautiful water world. Let’s work together to keep it beautiful for many generations to come.

MARPOL Annex V restricts the discharge of vessel generated garbage to the following:

Plastic Disposal prohibited into any waters
The discharge of all garbage is prohibited in the navigable waters of the United States and, in all waters, within three nautical miles of the nearest land.
Dunnage, lining, and packing materials that float Disposal prohibited less than 25 miles from nearest land and in U. S. Navigable Waters
Unground Garbage Disposal prohibited less than 12 miles from nearest land and in U.S. Navigable waters
Garbage ground to less than one inch Disposal prohibited less than 3 miles from nearest land and in U.S. Navigable Waters

U.S. vessels 26 feet or more in length must display a placard to make those on board aware of the above listed information. U.S. vessels 40 feet or larger, and which operate beyond three miles, and have a galley and berthing, or engage in commerce, must have a waste management plan posted and keep records of garbage discharges and disposals. A person who violates any of the above requirements is liable for a civil penalty of up to $25,000, a fine of up to $50,000, and imprisonment for up to five years for each violation. Note that regional, state, and local restrictions on garbage restrictions also may apply.




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