National Academies Press: OpenBook

Clean Ships, Clean Ports, Clean Oceans: Controlling Garbage and Plastic Wastes at Sea (1995)


Suggested Citation:"PROGRESS IN U.S. IMPLEMENTATION OF ANNEX V." National Research Council. 1995. Clean Ships, Clean Ports, Clean Oceans: Controlling Garbage and Plastic Wastes at Sea. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4769.
Suggested Citation:"PROGRESS IN U.S. IMPLEMENTATION OF ANNEX V." National Research Council. 1995. Clean Ships, Clean Ports, Clean Oceans: Controlling Garbage and Plastic Wastes at Sea. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4769.

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DIMENSIONS OF THE CHALLENGE AND U.S. PROGRESS 21 Missions of U.S. Government Agencies Implementation of Annex V requires the combined resources and skills of an eclectic mix of federal agencies, going well beyond the roles assigned in the MPPRCA. The MPPRCA gives the Secretary of Transportation, through the Coast Guard, sole authority to enforce Annex V. The Coast Guard is to consult with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in establishing standards for shipboard equipment. The Coast Guard and EPA are to consult with the Department of Commerce (specifically the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [NOAA]) in reporting on the effects of marine debris. In addition, to enforce the law against foreign-flag vessels, the Coast Guard is to cooperate with the Department of State's Office of Ocean Affairs. Since the MPPRCA was enacted, a number of other agencies also have been recognized as playing important roles, including the Minerals Management Service, which regulates the offshore oil and gas industry; the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which through APHIS is responsible for ensuring quarantine of certain types of garbage; the Maritime Administration, which promotes the U.S. maritime industry and has a technology assessment program that could help meet compliance needs; the National Park Service, which conducts beach debris monitoring programs at national seashores; and the Marine Mammal Commission, which reports annually to the Congress on marine mammal protection issues. Even with multiple federal agencies striving to accomplish Annex V objectives within their domains of expertise, they have not been able to reach and influence all segments of the highly diverse and dispersed maritime community. Not only are the fleets affected by Annex V highly varied in terms of their practices and accessibility, but also, even within a given fleet, operators may have no common topics to discuss and may not meet regularly on a national or regional level. As a result, a number of years after the ratification of Annex V, it is clear that a comprehensive strategy for integrating Annex V into the national environmental protection regime remains elusive. PROGRESS IN U.S. IMPLEMENTATION OF ANNEX V More than seven years have passed since the United States ratified Annex V and enacted the MPPRCA, yet some plastics continue to be discharged overboard. The Navy has obtained permission to do so temporarily, but federal officials suspect that other fleets routinely violate the law. While a minority of vessels apparently off-load garbage at U.S. port reception facilities, Coast Guard boarding officers often "find no trace of garbage, separated plastics, or incinerated ash on ships that doubtlessly generate large quantities of garbage" (Federal

DIMENSIONS OF THE CHALLENGE AND U.S. PROGRESS 22 Register, Vol. 59, p. 18,700 [1994111). Thus, it is clear that the United States has yet to implement Annex V fully. Full compliance will be difficult to attain, and measuring progress will be a major challenge. The Coast Guard has reported many difficulties with Annex V compliance and MPPRCA enforcement. External constraints include the vastness of the oceans, which makes comprehensive federal surveillance impossible; the difficulty of obtaining first-hand accounts from witnesses; the lack of follow-up prosecution of foreign-flag vessels by flag states; and economic disincentives, in that large penalties for violations are offset by the perceived low risk of detection (Eastern Research Group, 1992). Internal limitations include the low priority assigned to the problem of shipborne wastes; the complexity of administrative procedures for proceeding against violators; and shortcomings of Coast Guard training with regard to international shipping (Eastern Research Group, 1992). The EPA and NOAA have had to contend with similar internal constraints. No additional personnel or funding was allocated initially for either Coast Guard or EPA implementation efforts, although NOAA has received limited funding for its Marine Entanglement Research Program (MERP). The Coast Guard has suggested that Annex V compliance depends on factors other than government efforts, specifically the levels of environmental consciousness in the maritime industry and among the general public (Eastern Research Group, 1992). In spite of these challenges, some steps have been taken to implement Annex V, and there is reason for optimism about their effectiveness, due principally to the exemplary efforts of a network of dedicated advocates. Some of these individuals are federal employees or contractors, while others are private citizens acting on behalf of companies, advocacy groups, or trade associations. Whether motivated by a desire to halt the environmental damage caused by marine debris or by pressure for compliance with the law, many of these isolated initiatives have demonstrated, on a limited scale, that Annex V can succeed. Perhaps as a result of the combined efforts, compliance with Annex V may be increasing, as can be inferred from national statistics for APHIS garbage off- loading for the fiscal years 1988 through 1991. The annual number of vessels off-loading garbage increased steadily and significantly during that time period, from 1,937 to 12,518. These data have been interpreted by a USDA official as reflecting increasing levels of compliance with Annex V (Ronald B. Caffey, personal communication to Marine Board staff, August 18, 1992). A similar trend was reported by port authorities in Corpus Christi, Texas, who treated steadily increasing volumes of APHIS waste at their boiler facility between 1989 and 1993.12 11 Henceforth, references to the Federal Register will be abbreviated using the format 59 Fed. Reg. 18,700 (1994). 12 The boiler facility treated 30.6 cubic meters (m3) (40 cubic yards) (yd3) of APHIS waste in 1989, 79.5 m3 (104 yd3 ) in 1990, 125.4 m3 (164 yd3) in 1991, 256.9 m3 (336 yd3) in 1992, and 259.9 m3 (336 yd3) in 1993 (through August 5 only), port officials reported to the committee. The boiler was shut down in early 1994.

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Marine debris is a serious environmental problem. To do its part, the United States has agreed to abide by the international treaty for garbage control at sea, known as MARPOL 73/78 Annex V.

Clean Ships, Clean Ports, Clean Oceans explores the challenge of translating Annex V into workable laws and regulations for all kinds of ships and boats, from cruise ships to fishing crafts and recreational boats. The volume examines how existing resources can be leveraged into a comprehensive strategy for compliance, including integrated waste management systems and effective enforcement.

Clean Ships, Clean Ports, Clean Oceans describes both progress toward and obstacles to Annex V compliance. The book covers:

  • How shipborne garbage orignates and what happens to garbage discharged into the seas.
  • Effects of discharge on human health, wildlife safety, and aesthetics.
  • Differences in perspective among military, industrial, and recreational seafarers and shoreside facilities.

Clean Ships, Clean Ports, Clean Oceans will be important to marine policymakers, port administrators, ship operations officers, maritime engineers, and marine ecologists.

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