Renewing our commitment to cleaner seas and shipping

Renewing our commitment to cleaner seas and shipping

Celebrating World Maritime Day and 50 years of MARPOL
A vessel crossing the ocean

This World Maritime Day, the UK Government is renewing its commitment to cleaner seas and shipping, in particular its work minimising the effects of vessel pollution. 

Five decades since the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) was adopted by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), today is also a chance to reflect on the Government’s long history of helping protect the marine environment.  

As part of this commitment, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency is reiterating its drive to be a world leader in this important work. 

The theme for World Maritime Day 2023 is ‘MARPOL at 50 – Our commitment goes on’. Thanks to amendments to MARPOL, construction standards for oil tankers have significantly reduced the risk of mass oil spills, the discharge and dumping of toxic substances has been reduced and the dumping of plastics from ships into the sea is now prohibited.   

Recent amendments to the Convention have also introduced improvements in air emission standards for international shipping.   

Maritime Minister Baroness Vere of Norbiton said: 

“It’s vital on this World Maritime Day that we continue to look ahead and build on the great gains that the maritime sector has delivered in its journey towards cleaner international waters – the 50th anniversary of the IMO’s MARPOL convention is one to be celebrated. 

“Being an island nation, seafaring is a fundamental part of our character so it’s only right that we continue to uphold the work tackling oil spills, toxic discharge and pollution on our seas and oceans.” 

Virginia McVea, Chief Executive of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency said: 

“Safety has always been a priority for us, but it is our mission, now more than ever, to put the environment and greener shipping first. 

“There have been milestone achievements over the last 50 years thanks to MARPOL and we can’t stop now. It is important we continue to support this industry as it works on its efforts towards a healthier planet. This in itself, will help to prevent the risk of pollution at sea. With our objectives, ambitious but essential, we are on the right track.   

“We will continue our work ensuring IMO agreed standards are met.” 


World Maritime Day is celebrated annually and is used to focus attention on the importance of shipping safety, security and the marine environment.  It also emphasises a particular aspect of IMO’s work each year.   

The Red Ensign and the IMO’s flag will fly at the MCA’s Headquarters in Southampton in honour of World Maritime Day.  

This year’s theme reflects the organization's work and history of protecting the environment from the impact of shipping via a robust regulatory framework, and emphasises its ongoing commitment to this important work.   

The theme 'MARPOL at 50 – Our commitment goes on' spotlights the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL), which covers prevention of pollution of the marine environment by ships from operational or accidental causes. 

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