London Dumping Convention & 96 Protocol

The “Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter 1972”, or the “London Convention” is one of the first global conventions to protect the marine environment from human activities and has been in force since 1975. Its objective is to promote the effective control of all sources of marine pollution and to take all practicable steps to prevent pollution of the sea by dumping of wastes and other matter. Currently, several States are still Parties to this Convention. A so-called “black- and grey-list” approach is applied for wastes, which can be considered for disposal at sea according to the hazard they present to the environment.

For the blacklist items dumping is prohibited. Dumping of the grey-listed materials requires a special permit from a designated national authority under strict control, provided certain conditions are met. All other materials or substances can be dumped after a general permit has been issued.

The incineration at sea is the deliberate combustion of wastes or other matter on marine incineration facilities for the purpose of their thermal destruction. The wastes or other matter means material and substance of any kind, form or description. Special permit means permission granted specifically on application in advance and in accordance with Annex II and Annex III whereas general permit means permission granted in advance and in accordance with Annex III.

Where the article IV describes the characteristic feature of the Convention, article V is like a provision to override for safety and should continue through the protocol too.

Thus, under article IV, Contracting Parties shall prohibit the dumping of any wastes or other matter in whatever form or condition except as otherwise specified below:

(a) the dumping of wastes or other matter listed in Annex I is prohibited;
(b) the dumping of wastes or other matter listed in Annex II requires a prior special permit;
(c) the dumping of all other wastes or matter requires a prior general permit.

Article V states that the provisions of article IV shall not apply when it is necessary to secure the safety of human life or of vessels, aircraft, platforms or other man-made structures at sea in cases of force majeure caused by stress of weather, or in any case which constitutes a danger to human life or a real threat to vessels. Article X urges contracting Parties to undertake to develop procedures for the assessment of liability and the settlement of disputes regarding dumping.

There are three annexes. Annex I deals with different wastes whose dumping is prohibited. In addition it explains incinerator, Industrial waste, etc. Annex II deals with waste needing special permit. Annex III provides provisions to be considered in establishing criteria governing the issue of permits and contains the following:

A – Characteristics and composition of the matter.
B – Characteristics of dumping site and method of deposit.
C – General considerations and conditions.

In 1996, the “London Protocol” was agreed to further modernize the Convention and, eventually, replace it. The Protocol entered into force on 24th March 2006. There are currently more than 53 parties to the Protocol. The Protocol is more restrictive. Application of a precautionary approach is included as a general obligation. A reverse list approach is the characteristic feature, which implies that all dumping is prohibited unless explicitly permitted. As per this Protocol, incineration of wastes at sea is prohibited. Also, the export of wastes for the purpose of dumping or incineration at sea is prohibited. Extended compliance procedures and technical assistance provisions have been included. A so-called transitional period allows new Contracting Parties to do phase in compliance with the Protocol over a period of five years, provided certain conditions are met.

Key features of the protocol are evident in the following articles:
Article 1 Definitions.
Article 2 Objectives.
Article 3 General obligations.
Article 4 Dumping of wastes or other matters.
Article 5 Incineration at sea.
Article 6 Export of wastes or other matter.
Article 9 Issuance of permits and reporting.
Article 14 Scientific and technical research.
Article 15 Responsibility and liability.
Article 16 Settlement of disputes.
Article 22 Amendment of the annexes.

LP Annexes are:
Annex 1 – Wastes or other matter that may be considered for dumping.
Annex 2 – Assessment of wastes or other matter that may be considered for dumping.
Annex 3 – Arbitral procedures.

Article 1 explains at length the dumping. Thus, dumping is “any deliberate disposal into the sea of wastes or other matter from vessels, aircraft, platforms or other man-made structures”. It includes storage of wastes in the seabed. – Includes abandonment or toppling at a site. However, dumping is not:

  • operational discharges from vessels or offshore installations;
  • pipeline discharges from coasts or cities;
  • wastes discharged into rivers and out to sea; and
  • placement of matter for a purpose other than disposal, provided that such placement is not contrary to the aims.

It is interesting to note that, annually, 250 to 500 million tonnes of dredged material from ports and waterway maintenance are dumped in Convention or Protocol waters worldwide. 10% of the dredged material is contaminated by shipping, industrial and municipal discharges, or land run-off. Dredged material constitutes about 80 to 90% of all licensed materials dumped into the sea.

The objective of LP is to protect and preserve the marine environment from all sources of pollution and take effective measures, according to their scientific, technical and economic capabilities, to prevent, reduce and where practicable eliminate pollution caused by dumping or incineration at sea of wastes or other matter.

General directives being as follows:

  • Appropriate preventative measures are taken when there is reason to believe that waste introduced in the marine environment are likely to cause harm even when there is no conclusive evidence to prove so.
  • Each Contracting Party shall endeavor to promote practices whereby those it has authorized to engage in dumping or incineration at sea, should bear the cost of meeting, the pollution prevention and control requirements for the authorized activities.
  • Parties shall not transfer, directly or indirectly, damage or likelihood of damage from one part of the environment to another (air, or soil) or transform one type of pollution into another.

Exempted wastes:
All dumping is prohibited except for eight wastes or other matter that may be considered are:

1. Dredged material
2. Sewage sludge
3. Fish waste
4. Vessels, platforms or other man-made structures
5. Inert, inorganic geological material
6. Organic material of natural origin
7. Bulky items
8. CO2 storage in sub-seabed geological formations

Dumping is prohibited, except for specific wastes or other matter. Exceptions (LP Annex 1) and Waste Assessment Framework (LP Annex 2), provides Generic Waste Assessment Guidelines and Specific Waste Assessment Guidelines.

The Specific waste assessment guidelines (WAGs) include a step-by-step assessment process for each waste category addressing:
waste prevention audit;
waste management options;
waste characterization (chemical, physical, biological);
action list and action levels;
dump site selection;
assessment of potential effects;
compliance and field monitoring procedures and
permitting procedures.

Annex 3 – Includes liability provisions and settlement of disputes between Parties. The 1978 amendments to the Convention on the same issue never entered into force.

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