Managing Boating Waste (US Coast Guard)


The Coast Guard has issued these regulations to implement Annex V of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution From Ships, 1973, commonly known as Annex V of MARPOL (Marine Pollution) 73/78. These regulations apply to all U.S. vessels wherever they operate (except waters under the exclusive jurisdiction of a State), and to foreign vessels operating in U.S. waters to and including the exclusive Economic Zone (200 miles).


Inside 3 miles (and inside U.S. Lakes, Rivers, Bays and Sounds Plastic Paper, Rags, Glass Metal, Crockery,Dunnage, Food Any garbage except dishwater, graywater, fresh fish parts
3 to 12 miles Plastic If not ground to less than one square inch: Paper, Rags, Glass, Metal, Crockery, Dunnage, Food,Garbage
12 to 25 miles Plastic, Dunnage
Outside 25 miles Plastic

Federal regulations prohibit the discharge of plastic garbage anywhere in the marine environment. Plastic includes but is not limited to: plastic bags, styrofoam, cups and lids, six pack holders, bottles, caps, buckets, shoes, milk jugs, egg cartons, stirrers, straws, synthetic fishing nets, ropes, lines and “bio- or photo-degradable” plastics.



Garbage: all kinds of food, cargo and maintenance waste, ashes or clinkers, and domestic waste (generated in living spaces aboard the vessel — what we normally call trash). Garbage does not include fresh fish or fish parts, dishwater or graywater.

Dishwater: the liquid residue from the manual or automatic washing of dishes and cooking utensils which have been pre cleaned to the extent that any food particles adhering to them would not normally interfere with the operation of automatic washers.

Dunnage: cargo associated wastes.

Graywater: drainage from a dishwasher, shower, laundry, bath, and wash basin and does not include drainage from toilets, urinals, hospitals, and cargo spaces.


Observe the prohibition of disposal of plastics in any waters. Learn and conform to regulations regarding disposal of garbage within and beyond the 3 mile limit and in navigable U.S. waters. For example: The rules, in effect, make it illegal within 3 nautical miles to operate a garbage disposal in a galley sink if it discharges garbage — even ground up garbage. To make it easier to comply with the regulations, boaters may want to separate garbage according to disposal limitations.


Ports and terminals that conduct business with a commercial vessel must be capable of receiving garbage from the vessel when it docks. Recreational boating facilities (such as marinas, yacht clubs, and attended launching ramps), capable of providing wharfage or other services for 10 or more recreational vessels, must also provide adequate garbage reception facilities for any vessel that routinely calls. Marinas that receive garbage from boats returning from international voyages have special requirements — check with the Coast Guard Captain of the Port or Marine Safety Office (433 Ala Moana Boulevard, Honolulu). If a marina or terminal does not want to be directly involved in garbage collection and disposal. local firms may be retained to provide the service at the marina or terminal. Vessels must be conducting business with the facility or marina in order to qualify for the service. Terminals and marinas would not be expected to provide reception services to a vessel whose sole reason for docking was to offload garbage. the marina or terminal can charge vessel operators reasonable fees fro providing the reception service.


The U.S. Coast Guard is responsible for enforcement of Annex V. A person found to have violated these regulation may be liable for a civil penalty not to exceed $25,000 for each violation. In addition, criminal penalties not to exceed $50,000 and/or imprisonment up to 5 years may be imposed. The Coast Guard may deny vessels entry to marinas and terminals not in compliance.


Vessels denied the ability to offload their garbage wastes at marinas or other terminals should contact the closest U.S. Coast Guard Captain of the Port or Marine Safety Office (433 Ala Moana Boulevard, Honolulu). Observation of boats and vessels in violation of Annex V may also be reported to the same offices.


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