Implementation of MARPOL waste management regulations in the Port of Jebel Ali


Over the years there has been an increase in international efforts to tackle the adverse effect on the marine environment through regulation and stringent enforcement action. Many governments and big corporations have included sustainability and minimising the impact on the environment as their key commitments. As the United Arab Emirates is a key player in the maritime sector, it is taking steps to tackle pollution and harm to the marine environment.

DP World, the operator of the Port of Jebel Ali, has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (“MOU”) with Trakhees in early 2016 to tackle pollution from vessels, requiring all waste management service providers operating within the port to be MARPOL compliant from 1 January 2017.

Trakhees is the regulatory arm of Ports, Customs and Free Zone Corporation in Dubai (“PCFC”). DP World is the company which, according to its website, operates 77 terminals all around the world, the Port of Jebel Ali being one of them.  The MOU  implements the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (“MARPOL”) in the Port of Jebel Ali. A circular issued by Trakhees, a copy of which is available on their website, states that under the MOU the companies providing waste management service in the Port of Jebel Ali will be required to comply with MARPOL and failure to do so means that they will not be allowed to operate in the Port of Jebel Ali. Compliance with MARPOL will be enforced from 1 January 2017 with the effect that only waste collection companies holding a licence from the Emirate of Dubai and an approval from Trakhees Environment Health & Safety Department will be allowed to carry out waste collection or processing services.

MARPOL is the main international convention covering prevention of pollution of the marine environment by ships from operational or accidental causes. It was first adopted by the International Maritime Organization (“IMO”) on 2 November 1973 and absorbed by the 1978 MARPOL Protocol, which was created as a response to the tanker accidents in 1976-1977. The combined instrument entered into force on 2 October 1983. MARPOL has been updated by various amendments and Annexes throughout the years, the latest change being the addition of a new Annex VI, which entered into force on 19 May 2005. The original 1973/1978 Convention has been ratified by 155 states and covers 99.14% of the world tonnage. The latest Annex VI has so far been ratified by 87 states and covers 96.13% of the world tonnage. The UAE ratified the 1973/1978 Convention and Annexes III – V in 2007, but has not yet acceded to MARPOL 1997 Protocol (Annex VI).

The Convention includes regulations aimed at preventing and minimizing pollution from ships – both accidental pollution and that from routine operations – and currently includes six technical Annexes:

  • Annex I Regulations for the Prevention of Pollution by Oil
  • Annex II Regulations for the Control of Pollution by Noxious Liquid Substances in Bulk
  • Annex III Prevention of Pollution by Harmful Substances Carried by Sea in Packaged Form
  • Annex IV Prevention of Pollution by Sewage from Ships
  • Annex V Prevention of Pollution by Garbage from Ships
  • Annex VI Prevention of Air Pollution from Ships

Annexes I, II, IV and V define certain sea areas as “special areas” for reasons relating to oceanographical and ecological condition and to their sea traffic. Annex I covering pollution by oil and Annex V covering pollution by garbage both classify the “Gulfs” area, which covers the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Gulf, as a special area. These special areas are provided with higher level of protection than other areas of the sea and subject to certain provisions, discharge of waste from ships is prohibited.

Due to the federal nature of the UAE, the regulatory framework depends on which area is being looked at. At Federal level, the Federal Law No. 24 of 1999 sets out the framework for the protection and conservation of the quality and natural balance of the environment and also covers the protection of water environment. In Dubai, the legal framework is either overseen by the Environment Department of the Dubai Municipality or specified arms of the various freezones. In the Port of Jebel Ali, which is based in the Jebel Ali Freezone, the jurisdiction lies with Trakhees. In addition Trakhees also oversees Port Rashid, Port Hamriya, Techno Park, Nakheel, Limitless, Dubai Maritime City, Dubai Multi Commodities Centre and Istithmar.

As of 3 November 2016, according to Trakhees website, only eight ship generated waste service providers have been approved by PCFC as being MARPOL compliant. Whilst all eight have been approved for being compliant for collection services, only two have been approved as being compliant for processing of the ship generated waste. So far all the companies, apart from one which has also been approved for Annex II, are only Annex I compliant.

The MOU is a welcomed step to tackle pollution at one of the region’s flagship ports and the world’s 9th busiest container port according to Lloyd’s List One Hundred Container Ports 2016 list. This MOU is a move towards ensuring that all service providers operating in the Port of Jebel Ali comply with the MARPOL standards. We will continue to monitor the developments in implementation of MARPOL regulations in the UAE.

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