PMO|Marine Environment|Marine Environment Protection




Marine Pollution Prevention Department

Marine environment protection includes two sections: preventing and responding to pollution from the activities of ships, platforms and offshore installations.
Preventing marine pollution entails:
  • Implementing environmental legislations and conventions regarding marine pollution prevention; and
  • Ratifying international instruments, developing national legislations, providing waste reception facilities for ships, inspecting ships and platforms, etc.
International agreements responding to environmental challenges:
Preventing marine pollution:
  • International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL);
  • International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships' Ballast Water and Sediments (BWM); and
  • International Convention on the Control of Harmful Anti-Fouling Systems, (Anti-Fouling).
International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL)

One of the crucial international conventions on preventing pollution from ships is MARPOL, which was approved during a diplomatic conference in 1973 by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), and was amended by the 1978 Protocol to it. The provisions include various sources of pollution from ships, and concentrate on eliminating intentional pollution of the marine environment by oil and other harmful substances, and minimizing their intentional or accidental discharge at sea through the implementation of stringent requirements on ships and ports. Annexes V and VI to the Convention were revised considerably in 2011. 

The Convention applies to:
  • Ships flying or entitled to fly the flag of a Party to the Convention; and
  • Ships operating under the authority of a Party.
Any violation of convention requirements is prohibited and will be punished according to the regulations of the maritime administration of the Party whose flag the violating ship is entitled to fly. Any violation in the areas under the jurisdiction of a Party is also prohibited and will be punished according to the legislations of that Party.
Any Party shall furnish to the Administration evidence, if any, that the ship has discharged harmful substances or effluents containing such substances in violation of the provisions of the Regulations. Whenever a Party receives a report under the provisions of the present Article, that Party shall relay the report without delay to the Administration of the ship involved. If a pollution incident involves major deleterious impacts on the marine environment, the Parties shall investigate the issue and prosecute the violators, with sufficiently severe punishments to prevent the recurrence of the violation.
In order to fully eliminate international marine environment pollution by oil and other dangerous materials, as well as accidental discharging of such materials into the sea, the International Marine Pollution Conference decided to establish a convention called International Convention on Prevention of Pollution from Ships in 1973.
Five years later, the 1978  International Conference on Tanker Safety and Pollution Prevention adopted the 1978 Protocol to the above Convention in order to amend it and facilitate its accession. Since then, the Convention and its Protocol are considered one whole, referred to as MARPOL.


MARPOL includes two obligatory annexes:
 Annex I: Regulations for the Prevention of Pollution by Oil, and Annex II: Regulations for the Control of Pollution by Noxious Liquid Substances in Bulk) and four optional annexes(
Annex III: Regulations for the Prevention of Pollution by Harmful Substances Carried by Sea in Packaged Form,
Annex IV: Regulations for the Prevention of Pollution by Sewage from Ships,
Annex V: Regulations for the Prevention of Pollution by Garbage from Ships,
Annex VI:Regulations for the Prevention of Air Pollution from Ships

 The Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran ratified Annexes I, II and V in the year 2002 and Annexes III, IV and VI in 2009. Under these provisions, the ports of the country need to be equipped with adequate facilities to receive wastes from ships, including petrochemical materials and oily wastes, used oil, sludge, bilge water and garbage.



Special Sea Areas & Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas
 The issue of Special Areas and Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas (PSSA) was first mentioned by the IMO Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) in 1978. Discussions and debates on this issue from 1986 to 1991 led to the preparation and adoption of the Guidelines for Designation of Special Areas and the Guidelines for Identification and Designation of Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas (PSSA), on ecological, economical, social, and national grounds and with emphasis on their vulnerability and sensitivity against international maritime activities. In 1971, UNESCO introduced the earth’s reserves in the form of the Man and Biosphere (MAB) Program.
The Convention on the Law of the Sea (Montego Bay, 1982), has established for coastal States the right to determine special sea areas in their Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) by providing the necessary details. In this convention, special sea areas are areas where special measures are needed in order to prevent pollution from ships, due to recognized technical grounds regarding oceanographical features, as well as its utilization or protection of its resources and the particular characteristics of its traffic. 
Special Sea Areas
Approval of Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman as Special Sea Area by MEPC 56
 The Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in its fifty-sixth session, held 9-13 July 2007 in London, adopted the sea area of Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman as Special Sea Area. A Special Sea Area means a sea area where, for recognized technical reasons in relation to its oceanographical and ecological condition and to the particular character of its traffic, the adoption of special mandatory methods for the prevention of sea pollution by oil and/or garbage is required.
Special Sea Areas may consist of the sea areas of one or more countries, and include confined or semi-confined reservoirs. According to the criteria speculated by the IMO, areas would be chosen as Special Sea Areas where there is enough potential for harmful substances to accumulate and remain for long periods of time, and the ecological condition of the area necessitates protection of the living ecosystems and habitats. Moreover, the maritime traffic in such areas must be so high that the usual regulations are unable to guarantee protection of their marine environment. Apart from the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman, eight other areas, i.e. Mediterranean Sea, Baltic Sea, Black Sea, Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Antarctica, North Sea, and coastal waters of Oman in the Arabian Sea have so far been defined as Special Sea Areas.
The Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman area house critical aquatic habitats such as mangrove forests and coral reefs, precious species of pelagic fish, shrimps, turtles, aquatic mammals like dolphins, as well as valuable native and migrating birds such as herons, egrets, cormorants, flamingos, ospreys, and grebes. Considering the annual traffic of around forty thousands vessels and the extensive activities for exploitation of the oil resources beneath the sea bed, and following the request by the regional littoral States, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) approved the implementation of special regulations for pollution prevention in the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman. Enforcing such regulations in the Special Sea Areas is an effective method for marine environment protection.

persian gulf

Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman as Special Sea Area

Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas (PSSA)
An area that needs special protection from IMO due to ecological, social, economical, or scientific reasons or its vulnerability against maritime activities.
The concept of special and particularly sensitive sea areas, and its adoption by the IMO has provided for the development of joint executive plans and regulations in these areas which possess significant environmental importance. Establishing strict regulations for the SSAs and even stricter regulations for the PSSAs is one of the major international measures taken with the following aims:
  • Protecting the rich natural habitats in the coastal areas and open sea;
  • Protecting the coastal refuges for breeding, rearing, and resting of aquatic species;
  • Guaranteeing the stability of ecological products and environmental services in the marine environment;
  • Protecting the botanical, animal, and microbial genetic reserves crucial for the industries, health and hygiene, nutrition and textile of societies;
  • Protecting the cultural, indigenous, and traditional values in the coastal areas.
The issue of Special Sea Areas in the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman was first mentioned in ١٩٨٨ by ROPME, which has assigned some areas in this region as sensitive areas in one of its documents regarding the use of oil dispersants. These areas include some of the identified habitats with economical and ecological significance.
PSSA Protection Program
Stage I: Preparation
1. Defining Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas (PSSA)


2. Establishing environmental factors for identification and selection of PSSAs
2.1. Ecological factors
  • Uniqueness
  • Rarity
  • Critical Habitat
  • Dependency
  • Representativeness
  • Diversity
  • Productivity
  • Spawning or breeding ground
  • Naturalness
  • Integrity
  • Vulnerability
  • Bio-geographic importance



2.2 Human Factors
  • Economic benefit
  • Recreation
  • Human dependency
  • Research
  • Baseline and monitoring studies
  • Education
3. Introduction of the identified PSSAs
The first steps regarding SSAs in Iran was taken in ١٩٩٤ by the Iranian Department of Environment (DoE), based on the initial indexes for the introduction of such areas with regard to location and protection of mangrove forests, coral reefs, habitats for mammals, marine turtles, aquatic birds, and important areas for breeding of species used for fisheries.
Stage II: Field study
  •  Preparing a model for assessment and ranking of the PSSAs
  • Preparing protection priority charts of the Iranian PSSAs
  • Preparing a protection program for PSSAs
  • Providing a monitoring program for PSSAs
Stage III: Management
The next steps regarding PSSAs were taken in 1997 through preparation of the National Plan for Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Cooperation (OPRC) by the Ports and Maritime Organization (PMO). According to this Plan, PSSAs are areas in which special protective measures are required to prevent the spread of oil pollution. The Plan includes a detailed list of PSSAs, based on which the oil pollution authorities are required to take special measures to protect the PSSAs in case of oil pollution incidents.





International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships' Ballast Water and Sediments (BWM)


Another form of marine pollution that is not easily classified as pollution is the change in the genetic structure of aquatic ecosystems through intentional or unintentional transfer of non-indigenous species between ecosystems, which has led many aquatic species to spread of to areas beyond their natural habitats, and threaten the indigenous species of the host area. Ballast water of vessels is considered to be the main factor in this issue. Entry of new species into an ecosystem at the first level disrupts the structure of the food system extensively and leads to a decrease in the biodiversity of the sea. Such a situation would finally lead to deep changes in the marine genetic reserves. Moreover, this phenomenon is a serious threat for coastal fish farms that are located near shipping routes, and are exposed to the highest risk of infection by pathogens transferred through ballast water from vessels. There is evidence that even human diseases and their expansion in some coastal areas could be attributed to pathogens transferred through ballast water. 


Invasive aquatic species present a major threat to the marine ecosystems, and shipping has been identified as a major pathway for introducing species to new environments. The problem increased as trade and traffic volume expanded over the last few decades,


and in particular with the introduction of steel hulls, allowing vessels to use water instead of solid materials as ballast. The effects of the introduction of new species have in many areas of the world been devastating. Quantitative data show the rate of bio-invasions is continuing to increase at an alarming rate. As the volumes of seaborne trade continue overall to increase, the problem may not yet have reached its peak.

However, the Ballast Water Management Convention, adopted in 2004, aims to prevent the spread of harmful aquatic organisms  from one region to another, by establishing standards and procedures for the management and control of ships' ballast water and sediments.

Under the Convention, all ships in international traffic are required to manage their ballast water and sediments to a certain standard, according to a ship-specific ballast water management plan. All ships will also have to carry a ballast water record book and an international ballast water management certificate. The ballast water management standards will be phased in over a period of time. As an intermediate solution, ships should exchange ballast water mid-ocean. However, eventually most ships will need to install an on-board ballast water treatment system.
A number of guidelines have been developed to facilitate the implementation of the Convention.


The Convention will require all ships to implement a Ballast Water and Sediments Management Plan. All ships will have to carry a Ballast Water Record Book and will be required to carry out ballast water management procedures to a given standard. Existing ships will be required to do the same, but after a phase-in period. 
Parties to the Convention are given the option to take additional measures which are subject to criteria set out in the Convention and to IMO guidelines.
The Convention is divided into Articles; and an Annex which includes technical standards and requirements in the Regulations for the control and management of ships' ballast water and sediments.

Adoption: 13 February 2004; Entry into force: 12 months after ratification

by 30 States, representing 35 per cent of world merchant shipping tonnage


Date of entry into force

 The accession brings the combined tonnage of contracting States to the treaty to 35.1441%, with 52 contracting Parties. The convention stipulates that it will enter into force 12 months after ratification by a minimum of 30 States, representing 35% of world merchant shipping tonnage.

 The International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships' Ballast Water and Sediments (BWM Convention) will enter into force on 8 September 2017, marking a landmark step towards halting the spread of invasive aquatic species, which can cause havoc for local ecosystems, affect biodiversity and lead to substantial economic loss. Under the Convention’s terms, ships will be required to manage their ballast water to remove, render harmless, or avoid the uptake or discharge of aquatic organisms and pathogens within ballast water and sediments


Project for Control and Management of Ballast Water 
In the recent years, international bodies have taken measures for deeper and more extensive consideration of the problem with the aim of finding proper solutions. Upon the request of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED 1992, Rio), IMO has accepted the responsibility for approving and revising the requisite regulations regarding ballast water discharge into the sea, with the aim of preventing the expansion and transfer of non-indigenous species. IMO has also prepared a project called “Removal of Barriers to the Effective Implementation of Ballast Water Control and Management Measures in Developing Countries” (GloBallast) and submitted it through UNDP to GEF to receive the requisite technical and financial support. The initial objective of this project is to identify sample areas around the world and paving the way in this regard. Among the measures taken under this project are training, information distribution, creating capabilities, technical assistance and analysis projects.
the GloBallast Programme is being implemented through six Demonstration Sites, each one representing one of the six developing regions of the world, namely:




bwm site

 Sepetiba- Brazil


 Dalian- China 


 Mumbai- India


 Khark Island- Iran


Saldana- South Africa
Odessa- Ukrain

 Selected sites of the project




What is the Ballast Water?


 “Ballast Water” means water with its suspended matter taken on board a ship to control trim, list, draught, stability or stresses of a ship. Ballast water is taken up through sea chests located on the side and/or the bottom of the ship, with the aid of ballast pumps or by gravity feed. The sea chest intakes are covered with grates or strainer plates preventing large foreign objects from entering the ship’s ballast tanks. Ships are designed and built to move through the water carrying cargo, such as oil, minerals, containers etc. Accordingly, if the ship is traveling either without cargo, or has discharged some of its cargo in one port and is on route to its next port of call, ballast must be taken on board to enable the ship to operate effectively and safely.


bwm discharge

Ballast & Deballsting



Vectors of aquatic invasion



Local dispersal methods: boat, self-propelled (local), water currents.
Invasion pathways to new locations: aquaculture, aquarium trade, live food trade, ship ballast water, ship/boat hull fouling
There are thousands of marine species that may be carried in ships’ ballast water, basically anything that is small enough to pass through a ships’ ballast water intake ports and pumps. This includes bacteria and other microbes, small invertebrates and the eggs, cysts and larvae of various species. Not all of these will survive in the ballast tank because it is a hostile environment with considerable disturbance, a lack of food and light. Those that do survive must also pass through four stages to ensure potential establishment from one area to the other; namely:

    • uptake of ballast water
    • transit of the ship,
    • discharge of the ballast water,
    • establishment in the new environment








Waste Reception Statistics

Latest UpdateNovember 14, 2022
YearsEnvironmental Inspection (No)Bilge (M3)Sludge (M3)Garbage (No)Sewage (M3)