Recently, the Standard P&I Club has seen an increase in the number of incidents and fines relating to violations of Annex 1 of MARPOL, (the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships), for overboard discharges. Forecast Technology’s (FTL) revolutionary synthetic DNA-based tracer aims to oblige shipowners and ship managers to comply with MARPOL requirements so as to deliver environmental pollution prevention.

Pollution at sea occurs occasionally from maritime accidents, but more commonly results from ‘operational’ discharges of waste materials from ships at sea. In respect to the latter, shipowners and operators are becoming increasingly aware of the high-profile penalties recently being imposed by the authorities, following successful prosecutions in respect to environmental MARPOL violations.

MARPOL is the main regulation aimed at preventing pollution from ships. The Convention currently includes six Annexures which relate to the reduction of marine pollution resulting from operational discharges of waste materials, notably oily residues, but also garbage, sewage and smoke emissions.

The Standard P&I Club has seen a general increase, not only in the number of fines for MARPOL violations (largely under Annex I which covers the prevention of pollution by oil from operational measures and accidental discharges.), but also the level of fines. This is especially so in the United States (US), where recent Annex I fines have run into multimillions of dollars. In some cases, not only have the individuals (officers and crew) who perpetrated these MARPOL violation acts been imprisoned, but so too have senior managers of the company.

The Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS) is the US law that implements MARPOL and applies it in parallel with the U.S. Clean Water Act (CWA). The CWA states that it is unlawful for any person to discharge any pollutant into navigable waters unless a permit is obtained under its provisions. A major ship operator was recently fined over $10m for deliberate violations of APPS and for obstruction of justice. In another case, an operator and two engineers were convicted for conspiring not to maintain the Oil Record Book (ORB) correctly and for falsification of records. Serious MARPOL convictions affect an organisation’s reputation, resulting in it being ‘blacklisted’ and may jeopardise the pursuit of commercial contracts.

FTL is working with The Standard club to assist its members universally adopt a ‘pollution prevention culture’, that will help shipowners and ship managers avoid fines and preserve their companys’ reputations. FTL has pioneered the development of synthetic DNA tracer technology as a simple and inexpensive method of marking vessel cargoes and other hydrocarbons, including oily waste water or sludge found in slops and bilges. The tracer provides indisputable proof of source in order to avoid and/or minimise extremely costly and time-consuming disputes on culpability and regulatory compliance issues.

Researched, developed and tested at the respected forensic science laboratories of Minton, Treharne & Davies Ltd. in Cardiff, this synthetic DNA-based tracer can be coded with a signature number issued to each and every vessel registered by the IMO, (the International Maritime Organisation), thereby adding a permanent and unique “fingerprint” to all onboard fluids. Applying the technology to oily waste water means, for example, that should any such fluids be discharged to the ocean, and a sample is later collected and sampled, the offending vessel can be held accountable and ultimately prosecuted.

Potential cost savings to shipowners arise from the adoption of this tracer technology. FTL’s synthetic DNA-based tracer system provides clear and indisputable proof of source and can affirm both guilt or innocence. Considerable consequential losses can be suffered by shipowners and crews who are falsely accused of illegal discharges. For example, lax record-keeping can be construed as being fraudulent and can result in lengthy ship and crew detentions, mental trauma to the crew, damage to company reputations, off-hire claims, and related crew and legal costs. The FTL marking system is an effective tool, acting as a clear deterrent to malpractice, thereby helping to eradicate such practices from occurring in the first place, and also offers a speedy and indisputable method of disproving culpability and avoiding lengthy and costly Port State Control detentions. Given well-known enforcement practices, particularly those of the USA, the huge penalties and the absolute requirement to have effective shore-side and on-board management systems, members can trust FTL’s product to provide a straightforward, transparent and effective approach to pollution prevention which will stop the company and its staff being impacted by fines and prosecutions.

In doing so, FTL aims to reduce the number of large claims related to MARPOL Annex 1 violations, so that:In doing so, FTL aims to reduce the number of large claims related to MARPOL Annex 1 violations, so that:-

  • Port State Control detentions decrease
  • The subsequent financial impact on insurers and underwriting members diminishes
  • Ship owners’ reputations are protected, whilst providing them with a commercial advantage from adopting FTL’s tagging technology
  • Decline of mal-practice by, (and prosecution of) seafarers, as the adoption of FTL’s tagging technology increases.

For further information or discussion on any aspect of the science, design and qualities of this pioneering technology, please contact Dudley Chapman, Stuart Hall or Robert Armstrong directly on +44 (0) 1869 337558 or by email:

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Article by: Forecast Technology

Read more on this subject:

Environment & Pollution - Introduction
Environment & Pollution - Marpol
Standard Safety