Since no ports/terminals are the same, waivers and alternatives (33 CFR 158.150) will give a boost for ports/terminals and the Captains of the Port (COTP) to develop alternative means to meet the MARPOL 73/78, reducing accidental or operational pollution coming from ships.

While ports/terminals submit a waiver request, the alternative solution can be installed by the ship and not necessarily the port/terminal requesting the waiver.

This allows the entrance to a large range of solutions such as giving up the requirement for a port/terminal to provide reception facilities, since the ships calling at the port/terminal have agreed to discharge their waste in another port.

That means that small neighboring islands or remote locations with limited waste management/reception infrastructure will be benefited.


A port on a small island may be issued a waiver because all ships calling at their port also call into the port of the larger neighboring island with the infrastructure needed to receive and manage the collected waste.

To obtain a waiver, the person in charge of the port/terminal must show that the ocean-going ships using the port or terminal can use the proposed alternative without undue delay and without hampering their ability to comply with the discharge requirements of MARPOL 73/78.

The best evidence of this could be a letter attesting to this fact from the operators of the ocean-going ships and from the person in charge of the port or terminal providing the reception facilities. This letter would be submitted with the waiver request and reviewed by the responsible COTP.

The Coast Guard is obligated under MARPOL 73/78 to ensure adequate reception facilities are available. In applying for a waiver, the port or terminal must identify an adequate alternative for addressing the ship’s waste reception needs. Coast Guard Captains of the Port and ports/terminals persons-in-charge both commonly misinterpret the regulations to mean that a requirement can be waived, with no need of providing an alternative solution.

This is incorrect as under 33 CFR 158.150, a waiver cannot be issued if no alternative is provided, hence the use of the term waivers AND alternatives.

Moreover, a port/terminal person in charge can request a waiver and propose alternative for any part of the 33 CFR 158 regulations, proving that they are unreasonable or impractical for their operations.

In case this is accepted, COTP will draft a written waiver noting each alternative that applies and the requirement for which the alternative is substituted.

At the same time, the person in charge of the port/terminal must make sure that each waiver issued by the COTP is attached to the Certificate of Adequacy (COA). Otherwise a COA without its waiver(s) will render the COA invalid.

As it was previous mentioned, a COA must be issued to a port/terminal even if all criteria have been waived as a result of COTP approved alternatives.

Facility inspectors should verify, during the course of their inspection, that all documentation that constitute a valid COA (Application(s), Waiver(s)and the COA form issued by the Coast Guard) are presented to them as one packet and the information contained within is still applicable.

Concluding, USCG has made the regulatory requirement for a waiver clear and simple in order to encourage its use when appropriate.

See also:

USCG: Waste reception facilities services by third party contractors

USCG: Certificates of Adequacy for waste reception facilities