The Caribbean Sea has been designated a special area for the prevention of pollution by garbage generated by ships in accordance with the provisions of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, 1978 as amended , commonly known as the MARPOL Convention. The Special Area status came into force on May 1, 2011.
With this new status, ships trading in the Caribbean, as well as pleasure craft, are now prohibited from discharging plastics, paper products, rags, glass, metals, crockery, dunnage, packing materials and other forms of ship generated garbage into the sea. Jamaica along with the other Caribbean countries are able to enforce stricter standards on ships calling at ports of entry and marinas or when they are transiting territorial waters.
Although shipping contributes less than ten percent of the pollution of the marine environment, the ability to enforce the stricter standards for the discharge of garbage is an important measure to protect the fragile marine resources on which most of the Caribbean countries depend for tourism and fishing.
The new rights however come with some obligations which require the countries bordered by the Caribbean Sea to have in place adequate reception facilities to receive the garbage which the ships have retained on board.
Over the last eighteen years several initiatives have been commenced to establish waste reception facilities in the major ports of the region with limited success and in Jamaica, guidelines have now been developed by an interagency committee Chaired by the Maritime Authority of Jamaica and consisting of the Quarantine Division of the Ministry of Health, National Environment and Planning Agency, Port Authority of Jamaica and the National Solid Waste Management Authority, to ensure that Jamaica meets its MARPOL Convention obligations while managing the risks associated with ship generated wastes.