One of the most important environmental functions that ports are required to provide is the correct reception of waste and garbage generated on ships calling in at those ports, as the most effective way of preventing such waste from being thrown overboard.

The management of waste by ships and the related obligations for ports are regulated by the 1973 International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, as modified by the Protocol of 1978 (known as MARPOL 1973/78).

This agreement distinguishes six main groups of waste that can be generated on board a ship and devotes one appendix to the management of each of these six types of waste:

  • Annex I: Bilge waters, water treatment sludge, used mineral oils and water used to clean tanks that have contained oil products.
  • Annex II: water used to clean tanks that have contained noxious chemical substances.
  • Annex III: Packaging waste.
  • Annex IV: Sewage from ships, comprising waste water from drains, toilets, sinks, kitchen, etc.
  • Annex V: Solid waste comprising food remains (except fresh fish), household waste, plastics, paper, rags and waste related to the cargo, such as remnants of dunnage and packaging wood, lashing cables, wedges, straps, ropes, etc.
  • Annex VI: Atmospheric pollutants encompassing a broad spectrum ranging from waste asbestos (used as a flame retardant coating on partitions and doors), gaseous and particulate pollutants from engines and waste from the gas scrubbing system.

MARPOL 73/78 requires ports to provide reception facilities for these wastes appropriate to the volume of waste and the number of services to be provided, to avoid delays to the ship.

The Port of Barcelona has operators that provide a waste collection service and have a waste treatment plant within the port itself. The service comprises waste from Annex I (oil), Annex II (liquid substances in bulk), Annex IV (sewage) and Annex V (solid waste).

The service is provided every day of the year, round the clock and at the request of the vessel itself, by barge or lorry. About 8,000 services are provided each year with volumes of around 130,000 m3.

Plan for the reception of ship waste and cargo residues