MARPOL’S “Special Area” Garbage Discharge Restrictions Extended to the Wider Caribbean Region

Maritime Developments Advisory

New Development

On April 7, 2011, the U.S. Coast Guard announced in a Federal Register Notice that May 1, 2011 will be the date on which vessels operating within the "special area" known as the Wider Caribbean Region ("WCR") will be subject to more stringent garbage discharge requirements under MARPOL Annex V, Regulation 5. This means that no garbage, except food wastes under certain conditions, may be discharged into the sea on and after this date from vessels operating in the WCR.


MARPOL Annex V and the corresponding Coast Guard regulations in 33 C.F.R. §§ 151.51-77 govern the discharge of garbage from vessels. Certain bodies of water, including the area known as the WCR, were designated as "special areas" under these regulations and are subject to stringent discharge requirements. Although the WCR was designated as a special area in 1991, the garbage discharge restrictions could not enter into force, until the International Maritime Organization ("IMO") received sufficient notifications on the availability of adequate reception facilities in the region from each of the regional countries that are parties to MARPOL.

In 2010, the IMO received sufficient notifications in regards to the WCR and announced that the WCR special area garbage discharge requirements would enter into force on May 1, 2011. The WCR is defined as "the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea proper, including the bays and seas therein and that portion of the Atlantic Ocean within the boundary constituted by the 30° N parallel from Florida eastward to 77°30' W meridian, thence a rhumb line to the intersection of 20° N parallel and 59° W meridian, thence a rhumb line to the intersection of 7°20' N parallel and 50° W meridian, thence a rhumb line drawn southwesterly to the eastern boundary of French Guiana." 33 C.F.R. § 151.06(a)(12).

What Does This Mean for Vessel Owners and Operators?

Beginning on May 1, 2011, vessels operating within the WCR will be prohibited from discharging any garbage into the sea, except that food wastes may be discharged if a vessel is at least 12 nautical miles from the nearest land (or further, if practicable) and comminuted or ground food wastes that are capable of passing through a screen with openings no greater than 25 mm may be discharged if the vessel is at least 3 nautical miles from land. The discharge into the sea of other types of garbage that is otherwise allowed outside of special areas (e.g., dunnage, lining, packing materials, paper products, rags, glass, metal, bottles, crockery, and similar refuse) will be prohibited within the WCR.


Vessel owners and operators whose vessels operate within the WCR should ensure compliance with the special area discharge restrictions under MARPOL Annex V and the U.S. Coast Guard regulations. Violations of the regulations may subject owners and operators to administrative, civil, and criminal penalties.

Notice: The purpose of this Maritime Developments Advisory is to identify select developments that may be of interest to readers. The information contained herein is abridged and summarized from various sources, the accuracy and completeness of which cannot be assured. The Advisory should not be construed as legal advice or opinion, and is not a substitute for the advice of counsel. Additional information on Blank Rome may be found on our website,