MARPOL Convention and substantive rules of pollution
Modern international law started its journey with the development of the international law of the sea. The father of modern international law Hugu Grotiuos’s books Mare Liberum incorporated the concept of freedom of sea in 1608. Initially the concern of the law of the sea was related to fishing and shipping. It was only the beginning of the 20th century when the concern for the protection of marine environment had been thought about. At the beginning of the 20the century most of the international community was largely concerned about the state-state disputes arising out of boundary demarcations.
The 1926 Preliminary Conference on Oil Pollution of Navigable Waters, held in Washington, can be identified as one of the earliest international efforts to protect the marine environment from vessel-source pollution. In 1954, the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution of the Sea by Oil (OILPOL) was adopted in a conference organized by the United Kingdom. This Convention was amended in 1962, 1969 and 1971.
After the OILPOL convention the Tory Canyon incident of 1967 profoundly contributed to the development of the pollution convention. Following this horrific incident, under the sponsorship of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) 1973 was adopted. Under Article 9 of the MARPOL Convention, it was stipulated that the MARPOL Convention supersedes the OILPOL Convention.
This convention seems to be the most important convention for the prevention of vessel pollution at sea. It has brought many new changes in the substantive aspects. The convention contains six annexes and these are being updated regularly. Annexes I and II, governing oil and chemicals, are compulsory but Annexes III, IV, V and VI, on packaged materials, sewage, garbage and air pollution, are optional. A State that becomes party to MARPOL must accept Annex I and II. Annexes III-VI are optional annexes.