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Oil and oily waste

The discharge of oil, fuel and oily waste poses a threat to the marine environment. There are a number of regulations in place to prevent oil pollution.

Discharge of oil is prohibited and all possible measures should be used to prevent accidental spills.

Regulations for the prevention of pollution by oil

New Zealand is a party to Annex I of MARPOL 73/78, the International Convention on Prevention of Pollution from Ships. Annex I includes regulations for the prevention of pollution by oil.

Oil and petroleum products must not be discharged anywhere within New Zealand’s territorial waters or within the Exclusive Economic Zone. The only exception to this is where the discharge has the purpose of avoiding, remedying or mitigating an oil spill or for saving life at sea.

Chemical oil dispersants may not be used anywhere within New Zealand’s territorial waters or Exclusive Economic Zone without prior approval from Maritime New Zealand.

Oily wastes such as bilge water and machinery waste can only be discharged if the dissolved hydrocarbon content is less than 15 parts per million, and the ship is en-route and the oil is not being carried as cargo. Oily rags and other oiled solid waste must not be discharged anywhere within New Zealand’s territorial waters or Exclusive Economic Zone.

Facilities for the reception of oiled solid and liquid waste are available at all New Zealand ports.

The land disposal of these wastes is regulated under the Resource Management Act (RMA).

Reporting an oil spill

Any oil discharge or accidental spill of oil into the water must be reported immediately to one of the following:

  • the regional council for the area the spill occurred
  • Maritime New Zealand
  • Taupo Maritime Radio - phone 04 914 8333.

In the event of an oil spill, vessel operators should make all reasonable attempts to stop the discharge and prevent oil reaching the marine environment. For example by blocking scuppers and collecting any oil from the deck. Where possible oil should be contained and recovered from the water.

Regional councils and Maritime New Zealand have spill response expertise and equipment to activate once a spill has been reported.

All about oil and oil spills

Learn more about oil, including the following topics, by clicking on the link below:

  • what is oil
  • the properties of the oils that are commonly spilled in New Zealand
  • what spilled oil looks like
  • oil and its behaviour when spilled
  • identifying spilled oil
  • oil storage and disposal.

Response to Marine Oil Spills Film Series

Oil spills from shipping accidents and offshore blowouts are rare, but when they happen the impact on the environment, on livelihoods and on the local economy can be severe.

In this series of seven films, the International Tankers Owners Pollution Federation Limited tackle the key questions. What issues do we need to consider? What expertise and techniques are available? and how do we deliver a well-planned and executed response?


More oil-related topics