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What’s That Ship Pumping Overboard?


New online guide sheds light on the waste commercial ships can and can’t dispose of at sea

Vancouver, B.C., March 23, 2022 – More than 55,000 commercial ships sail the world’s waters annually, carrying essential goods and products that people depend on. As they move from port to port, these ships generate a range of waste and residual material, from lubrication oil, to wash water, ballast water, greywater, leftover contents in cargo holds, sewage, food waste, and other garbage.

The issue – and often confusion – around how commercial vessels treat and dispose of that waste and where it can be legally discharged is the subject of a new bi-lingual (English-French), online guide developed by Clear Seas Centre for Responsible Marine Shipping (Clear Seas). This tool gives readers an opportunity to explore and get an inside look at the different types of waste ships and their crews generate as part of daily operations, and better understand how the management and disposal of these wastes are regulated in both Canadian and international waters.

Visit the page and learn about ship waste here.

The new interactive guide is innovative because it takes users inside a large commercial vessel where they can interact with the different components, and discover what waste or residue is either created by ship crews, such as sewage, grey water, and garbage, or a result of engines and machines, including the oil that leaks from propeller shafts. It also looks at how waste from bilge pumps or surplus wash material from cargo holds is treated and regulated. The guide answers commonly asked questions about ship-generated waste and how certain levels and limits to discharge are determined.

While the marine shipping industry has been making headlines on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, they are also moving to zero waste on ships, just like all levels of government, business, and the public at large. For example, Quebec-based shipping company Desgagnés is working to ensure its flagship cargo and passenger vessel, the Belle Desgagnés, becomes the first Canadian vessel to produce zero landfill waste.

Other zero-waste programs operated through the Green Marine environmental certification program offer a process for the marine shipping industry to reduce their environmental footprint. Participants include ship owners, port authorities, terminal operators, and shipyard managers – who must demonstrate measured improvement to maintain their Green Marine certification. They use 14 performance indicators that measure progress in combating air, land, and water pollution.

Clear Seas’ online guide to managing the waste from commercial ships is an important resource for everyone concerned about minimizing the impact from shipping on the environment.

About Clear Seas

Clear Seas is a not-for-profit independent research centre that provides impartial information on marine shipping in Canada to policy makers and the public. The organization’s research agenda is defined internally in response to current issues, reviewed by a research advisory committee, and approved by a board of directors. All publications are available at

Media Contact:

Edward Downing
Director of Communications
Tel.: (778) 730-1359 or cell (604) 817-3058

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