Exemptions from survey and certification requirements for unmanned non-self-propelled barges


Last week, The Merchant Shipping Directorate has published a new technical notice concerning exemptions from survey and certification requirements which may be applied for unmanned non-self-propelled (UNSP) Barges.

Through Technical Notice MARPOL.15[1], the Directorate draws the attention of Ship-owners, Ship Operators, Managers, Masters, Owners’ Representatives and Recognised Organisations to such exemptions stemming from the amendments made to Annexes I, IV and VI of the MARPOL Convention.

Definition of a UNSP Barge

According to the MARPOL Convention, a ‘UNSP barge’ is defined as a barge that meets the following requirements:

  • Is not propelled by mechanical means;
  • Does not have persons or living animals on board during navigation;
  • Does not carry oil;
  • Does not have a fuel oil tank, lubricating oil and bilge oil residues tank and does not have machinery fitted that may use oil or generate oil residues; and/or
  • Is not used for holding sewage during transport or have any arrangements that could produce sewage; and/or
  • Does not have a system, equipment and/or machinery fitted that may generate emissions.

If a UNSP barge fails to meet any of the above requirements, then any exemption certificate issued under the MARPOL Convention will cease, regardless of whether the owner or operator informs the Administration and/or the port State.

Exemptions under MARPOL Annexes I, IV and VI

The objective of the exemptions under the MARPOL Convention aimed to reduce the administrative burden on flag States, port States and relevant parties. The amendments[2] that came into force on the first (1st) of November 2022 also include individual definitions of a UNSP barge under each Annex together with the exemption certificate templates.

The Administration may exempt a UNSP barge from the annual survey and certification requirements, for a period not exceeding five (5) years provided that the barge has undergone a survey to confirm that it complies with the definition of a UNSP barge.

As a result, certain technical requirements of the MARPOL Annexes I, IV and VI are not applicable to UNSP barges.  These exemptions relate to (but are not limited to): oil storage and filtering, standard discharge connection, sewage systems and emission of ozone-depleting substances. Furthermore, as UNSP barges do not have onboard sources of relevant pollutants of the marine environment, certain operational requirements are not applicable.

Procedure for Exemption & Maintenance of Conditions

The shipowner or operator is to apply to the Administration (or the Recognized Organization acting on its behalf) for the relevant exemption and submit relevant information and drawings in its application.

Following a review of the submitted plans and information, a survey of the UNSP barge is to be carried out to ascertain whether the actual arrangements on board comply with the respective conditions. Based on satisfactory results of the survey, an exemption certificate from the survey and certification requirements under MARPOL Annexes I, IV and/or VI, may be issued.

Once the exemption certificate has been issued, the UNSP barge must maintain its exemption conditions and comply with the definition of a UNSP barge as previously described.  The respective exemption certificate would cease to be valid if such conditions are not adhered to.  Therefore, shipowners or operators are encouraged to be proactive and inform the Administration and port State if the barge is no longer compliant for whatever reason to the exemption, in order to carry out further reviews and re-issue corresponding exemption certificates to the UNSP barge.

[1] https://www.transport.gov.mt/include/filestreaming.asp?fileid=9770

[2] Annexes I, IV and VI of the MARPOL Convention – MEPC.328(76), MEPC.330(76) and MEPC.1/Circ.892 – Exemption of Unmanned Non-Self-Propelled (UNSP) Barges from Survey and Certification Requirements