Dumping at Sea

A ‘scupper’, technically, is a hole in a ship’s side to allow water to run off the deck.1 But with the somewhat tortured logic that only the English language can boast, if you scupper a ship, it means you sink it deliberately.

Anyway, it is a criminal offence to do this – notably to a ship, but actually to any vessel – unless you have a special permit. In fact, in accordance with the Dumping at Sea Control Act 1980, the following are all criminal offences, unless the deed was a reasonable step in order to save human life, or to prevent damage to or secure the safety of any vessel, aircraft or structure at sea (referred to as a ‘vessel’).

  1. To dispose of into the sea, or incinerate at sea, (in other words, ‘dump’) any of the following:
    • organohalogens, cadmium, mercury and their compounds;
    • persistent plastics, other persistent synthetic materials;
    • substances for biological or chemical warfare; or
    • high-level radio-active matter or waste.
  2. To dump, or to load onto any vessel in order to dump, any of the following without a special permit:
    • arsenic, lead, copper, zinc, organosilicon, beryllium, chromium, nickel, vanadium, and their compounds;
    • cyanides, fluorides and pesticides;
    • containers and scrap metal;
    • radio-active waste and matter;
    • any substance or article whose bulk may interfere with fishing or navigation; or
    • ammunition.
  3. To dispose of any vessel at sea without a special permit.

  4. It is also a crime to dump anything else, or load up anything else for dumping, without a general permit.

  5. Unless proven that they forbid the conduct and took all reasonable steps to prevent it:
    • the master and the owner of the vessel;
    • the pilot and the owner of the aircraft;
    • the person in charge and the owner of the structure,

    will also be guilty of the offences mentioned above.

  6. Where dumping has taken place under a permit, the master, pilot or person-in-charge must immediately report it to the Director General: Environmental Affairs.

  7. Anyone who obstructs or assaults any officer exercising powers of inspection under the Dumping at Sea Control Act 1980, commits a crime.

  8. Anyone who fails to comply with a demand of such officer, in the performance of his duties, commits a crime.
  1. The word comes from the ancient French ‘escopir’, which means ‘to spit’.