Oil Pollution


The Mediterranean Sea is one of host to the world’s busiest shipping lanes.  Oil and gas tankers, the largest existing container vessels in the world, and ships transporting raw materials like ore and coal all sail close to the shores of the Mediterranean countries. The oil, either transported by sea, or used as fuel by ships, poses inevitable environmental risks to the region.  Because of this, effective measures are needed to prevent oil pollution from happening, as any such incident could lead to an environmental disaster which could take decades to overcome.

Preventing and combatting marine oil pollution is pivotal to REMPEC’s work. As stated in the Regional Strategy for Prevention of and Response to Marine Pollution from ships (2016-2021), REMPEC focuses on the ratification and implementation of relevant international conventions relevant to  protecting the marine environment, including those focused on preventing oil pollution, in particular MARPOL Annex I (Specific objective 1), whilst also making continuous efforts to improve the level of enforcement and prosecution for discharge offenders, through the use of coordinated regional activities such as MENELAS.

Mediterranean Sea as Special area

The Mediterranean Sea* is a special area under MARPOL Annex I for recognized technical reasons in relation to its oceanographical and ecological conditions and to the particular character of its sea traffic. In this area, special mandatory methods for the prevention of sea pollution by oil is required.

Discharges in special areas

Any discharge into the sea of oil or oily mixtures from ships of 400 gross tonnage and above shall be prohibited, except when all of the following conditions are satisfied:

.1 the ship is proceeding en route;

.2 the oily mixture is processed through an oil filtering equipment meeting the requirements of regulation 14.7 of MARPOL Annex I;

.3 the oil content of the effluent without dilution does not exceed 15 parts per million;

.4 the oily mixture does not originate from cargo pump-room bilges on oil tankers; and

.5 the oily mixture, in case of oil tankers, is not mixed with oil cargo residues.

Discharge In Special Areas From Oil Tankers

Any discharge into the sea of oil or oily mixture from the cargo area of an oil tanker shall be prohibited while in a special area.**

*The Mediterranean sea area as indicated in MARPOL Annex I, means the Mediterranean Sea proper, including the gulfs and seas therein with the boundary between the Mediterranean and the Black Sea constituted by the 41° N parallel and bounded to the west by the Straits of Gibraltar at the meridian of 005°36' W.

**The provisions shall not apply to the discharge of clean or segregated ballast. 

Legal Instruments

The key international legal instrument regulating the prevention of pollution by oil is  Annex I of MARPOL.