National Academies Press: OpenBook

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

Chapter: Implications for Implementation of Annex V

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Suggested Citation:"Implications for 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.
Page 51

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SOURCES, FATES, AND EFFECTS OF SHIPBORNE GARBAGE 51 from the mouth of the estuary on New Jersey and Long island beaches (Swanson and Zimmer, 1990). A member of the Committee on Shipborne Wastes has found messages in bottles in the Gulf of Mexico that were sent from as far away as Australia. Such findings clearly imply that garbage discharged legally at sea could drift into a special area. Implications for Implementation of Annex V When fully and successfully implemented, Annex V will eliminate the disposal of plastics and shift the disposal of other vessel garbage away from the coast, into the open ocean. This change, it is hoped, may reduce to a meaningful degree the most visible pollution problems caused by vessel garbage. However, recently acquired knowledge concerning the fates of marine debris calls into question the ultimate effectiveness of Annex V as currently conceived. Oceanographic and satellite data gathered during the past 20 years have improved understanding of ocean circulation and marine water dynamics, which influence the fate of materials thrown off ships. In some waters, the net transport is offshore, while elsewhere the net transport is onshore, and in still other areas, such as the Gulf of Mexico or the Atlantic waters bordering the Gulf Stream, the motion is essentially cyclical. For example, tar balls created by the oily residues discharged from ships have been "tracked" in the ocean, and the tracks indicate that the same persistent tar ball can move with the water body, returning to the same spot more than once (Butler et al., 1973). Drifting bits of debris, litter, or garbage are affected by small-scale water movements as well as by larger-scale currents and seasonal changes. In 1990, approximately 80,000 athletic shoes in containers were lost overboard in a storm in the north Pacific Ocean; at least 1,300 shoes were transported more than 2,000 kilometers (km) (more than 1,240 miles) in seven to nine months, washing shore in bunches along roughly 1,000 km (approximately 620 miles) of coastline across Oregon, Washington, and Vancouver Island (Ebbesmeyer and Ingraham, 1992; Swanson et al., 1994). Because previous satellite studies suggested that such objects would not be distributed so widely, processes other than oceanic dispersion, probably coastal currents, appeared to be at work (Ebbesmeyer and Ingraham, 1992). Furthermore, although the initial drift apparently was due east, shoes Were reported washing ashore as far away as Hawaii to the south, and researchers expected some to reach Asia and Japan eventually after drifting west (Ebbesmeyer and Ingraham, 1992). The same researchers also have reported that a broken container from a ship released about 29,000 bath toys into the middle of the Pacific Ocean in January 1992, and that hundreds of the plastic animals appeared along the shores of southeastern Alaska in the fall of that year (Ebbesmeyer and Ingraham, 1994). The scientists predicted that some of the toys would float through the Arctic Ocean, past Greenland, and into the Atlantic Ocean.

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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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