Parliament to address Air Pollution from Ships, Finally!

Update: The Maritime Transport (MARPOL) Amendment Bill underwent its third reading on 9 November 2021.  Having successfully progressed through its third reading, it now awaits royal assent.  This should occur prior to the end of 2021.  The Maritime Protection Rules, given force by this amendment, will not come into effect until three months after the Bill receives royal assent and becomes law.  Therefore, the true impact of this Bill will not be felt until early 2022. A final draft of those Rules is expected soon.  

Annex VI to the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) addresses air pollution from ships.  It came into force internationally in May 2005.  New Zealand was slow to accede to Annex VI, but is finally doing so.

The Maritime Transport (MARPOL Annex VI) Amendment Bill (Bill) is currently progressing through Parliament.  It is set to have its third reading shortly, prior to receiving royal assent and becoming law, by the end of 2021. 

The Bill will amend the Maritime Transport Act 1994 (MTA) and align it with Annex VI of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL).


MARPOL consists of six annexes, categorized by pollution type, that aim to minimise pollution from ships in the maritime environment. 

New Zealand joined MARPOL in 1998 and is currently party to four of the six annexes. 

Annex VI came into force in May 2005 and seeks to limit air pollution from ships, including reducing carbon emissions and improving air quality around ports and harbours.

In 2019, Cabinet agreed to become party to Annex VI from late 2021.  This required change to the MTA. 

The Bill will amend the MTA by giving the Minister of Transport discretion to make Marine Protection Rules in relation to Annex VI of MARPOL.  It will also grant the Director of Maritime New Zealand the power to conduct inspections and audits and detain ships that breach Annex VI requirements.

Industry was recently consulted on a draft of the proposed Marine Protection Rules and associated offences. A final draft is expected soon, with the Rules to come into effect three months after the amendment becomes law.

Annex VI Requirements

Annex VI includes a number of requirements that aim to minimise pollution from ships in the maritime environment.  These include:

  • Limiting sulphur content in bunkers;
  • Nitrogen oxide controls;
  • Energy efficiency requirements;
  • Controls on emissions of ozone depleting substances and volatile organic compounds (such as oil vapour);
  • Requirements on port facilities for waste from ships; and
  • Requirements for New Zealand to enforce compliance with obligations and to implement survey and certification procedures.

Impact of Annex VI 

MARPOL is concerned with preventing and minimising ship-based pollution, and is the primary international regulation for addressing the impacts of shipping on climate change – 95 countries, representing 97% of the world tonnage are party to it.  Most ships travelling internationally, including New Zealand flagged ships, are already required to comply with Annex VI.

By adopting Annex VI, all New Zealand flagged ships and foreign flagged ships visiting New Zealand must comply with the formal Annex VI certification regime. The Ministry of Transport and Maritime NZ also has discretion to apply some requirements of Annex VI to domestically travelling ships.

The Ministry of Transport and Maritime NZ have, and will likely continue, to consult with key industry stakeholders regarding these discretionary areas.

The amendments to the MTA are expected to come into effect by the end of 2021.  The Annex VI rules, promulgated by the Minister of Transport via the amended MTA, are expected to be approved around the same time.  However, these rules will not come into force until the first quarter of 2022.

If you have any questions about MARPOL Annex VI, please get in touch with our Trade and Transport team or your usual contact at Hesketh Henry.


Disclaimer:  The information contained in this article is current at the date of publishing and is of a general nature.  It should be used as a guide only and not as a substitute for obtaining legal advice.  Specific legal advice should be sought where required.







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