Waste management

The Commonwealth Protection of the Sea (Prevention of Pollution from Ships) Act 1983 (POTS Act) and the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, 1973, as modified by the Protocol of 1978 (referred to as MARPOL 73/78), contain warship exemption clauses to avoid compromising the operational capability of complex vessels. Warships are exempt due to their specialist roles, extreme space constraints, large numbers of embarked personnel and the increased occupational health and safety risk of retaining wastes on-board.

Despite these exemptions, the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) has instituted strict waste management practices throughout the fleet, and has adopted most aspects of the MARPOL regulations. Practices include shipborne waste directives for the management of:

  • oil, fuel and oily wastes (MARPOL Annex I)
  • sewage (MARPOL Annex IV)
  • garbage (MARPOL Annex V)
  • air pollution (MARPOL Annex VI).

RAN policy reflects a preference to avoid overboard discharge, for both environmental and tactical reasons. Whenever possible, disposal of wastes at shore facilities is preferred. Where retention on board is not viable, all RAN ships and support craft are required to meet standards that apply to commercial and private vessels. Stringent controls on waste discharge apply to sensitive sea areas such as the Great Barrier Reef, Antarctica, and Ashmore Reef.

Larger RAN ships are equipped with modern waste management equipment. On-board facilities are supported by contracted services to remove shipborne wastes in all ports where receiving facilities are available. The RAN is committed to updating and improving shipborne systems to manage waste streams as new technologies emerge.