International requirements for the prevention of pollution from sewage are contained in Annex IV of the International Maritime Organization's Pollution Convention, Regulations for the Prevention of Pollution by Sewage from Ships. Annex IV of the Pollution Convention contains requirements for surveys, International Sewage Pollution Prevention Certificates, sewage treatment plants, discharging sewage, reception facilities and standard discharge connections. Annex IV came into force on September 27, 2003.

Canada has not acceded to Annex IV; however, Canada has adopted regulations concerning sewage pollution prevention in Division 4 – Sewage – of the Regulations for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships and for Dangerous Chemicals. These provisions replace the previous Great Lakes Sewage Pollution Prevention Regulations, Pleasure Craft Sewage Pollution Prevention Regulations and Non-Pleasure Craft Sewage Pollution Prevention Regulations. The regulations for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships and for Dangerous Chemicals are a consolidation of the former regulatory requirements, the recommendations of a stakeholder working group established by Transport Canada Marine Safety, and the requirements of Annex IV of the Pollution Convention that have not been fully addressed by regulation in Canada.

Annex IV of the Pollution Convention applies only to ships of 400 tons gross tonnage or more or certified to carry over 15 persons. The application has been expanded in the regulations to include all ships in all Canadian waters and to all Canadian ships everywhere. Previous regulations concerning sewage applied to ships, other than pleasure craft, only on the Great Lakes and to all ships in a few areas designated for zero discharge. In Ontario, application includes pleasure craft under provincial legislation.

Section 119 of the regulations requires a ship that has a toilet on board to have a holding tank or an approved marine sanitation device. With some exceptions, the discharge of untreated sewage into all Canadian inland waters and Canadian coastal waters within 3 nautical miles of land (ships less than 400 tons) and 12 miles of land (ships larger than 400 tons) is now banned. Treated sewage will only be allowed to be discharged into Canadian waters subject to specified limits of faecal coliforms per 100 ml of water. Adoption of these requirements will permit Canada to accede to Annex IV of the Pollution Convention.

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