Act To Prevent Pollution From Ships (APPS) Whistleblower FAQ

One of the most important and effective tools to uncover and prevent marine pollution is the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS).

Published on June 06, 2020

Q: What is the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS)?

A: One of the most important and effective tools to uncover and prevent marine pollution is the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS). APPS is a U.S. federal law enacted to implement the provisions of the International Convention for the Prevention of the Pollution from Ships treaty, otherwise known as MARPOL.
APPS includes a key whistleblower provision which permits federal courts to grant rewards of up to 50% of the total fines to whistleblowers whose disclosures regarding pollution on the high seas result in a successful prosecution.

Q: What is MARPOL?

A: The International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) is the main international convention covering prevention of pollution of the marine environment by ships from operational or accidental causes. The MARPOL Convention was developed by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and adopted in 1973.

Q: What are violations under APPS?

A: Violations of APPS include discharges above the permitted level of oil and oily water; noxious liquid substances; garbage; and emissions of certain air pollutants.
Additional violations include the disposal of certain pollutants in “special areas” or within a certain distance from land, and the disposal of any plastics into the ocean.
APPS also requires crews to maintain accurate Oil Record Books.

Q: Who does APPS apply to?

APPS applies to all U.S.-flagged vessels and to all vessels, including foreign-flagged vessels, at the port under U.S. jurisdiction or operating in the navigable waters of the United States.

Q: Who enforces APPS?

A: APPS is enforced by the United States Coast Guard, who prescribes regulations to carry out the provisions of this Act and utilizes other Federal departments and agencies when necessary.

Q: Can non-U.S. citizens qualify as whistleblowers?

A: Yes. Under multiple whistleblower laws, including APPS, eligibility and rewards do not depend on U.S. citizenship.

Q: Can whistleblowers receive rewards under APPS?

A: Yes. Those who report violations of APPS or MARPOL can be compensated with up to 50% of the monetary penalties that the U.S. government receives from the guilty parties. The average reward granted to whistleblowers as a result of successful APPS prosecutions was 28.8% of the total amount of funds collected by the government.
From 1993 to 2017, the U.S. government awarded 205 whistleblowers a sum of approximately $33 million in 100 prosecutions under APPS.

Q: How successful has APPS been?

A: APPS has been incredibly effective since it was signed into law, and due to the success of its whistleblower provisions, the U.S. is the number one enforcer of MARPOL. The U.S. government obtained over $270 million in sanctions from polluters under APPS.
In a 2018 analysis of 100 recent APPS prosecutions available on Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER), court records reveal that whistleblowers were responsible for 76% of all successful cases from 1993 to 2017.

Q: Who benefits from the success of APPS?

A: One of the most important features of APPS is its mandate that a portion of the rewards from successful prosecutions must be used for beneficial purposes, including to marine conservation organizations such as:
• Arctic Research Consortium of the U.S. • National Fish and Wildlife Foundation • National Marine Sanctuary Foundation • North American Wetlands Conservation Act Fund • Smithsonian Environmental Research Center • Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve
From 1993 to 2017, courts ordered over $63 million be used for fighting ocean pollution.

Q: How can I get help?

If you need help finding an attorney, visit Resources for Locating an Attorney.
ReadThe New Whistleblower's Handbook: A Step-by-Step Guide to Doing What's Right and Protecting Yourself (Lyons Press, 2017). It's the first-ever consumer's guide to whistleblowing. It contains clear and comprehensive rules that fully explain the how to effectively blow the whistle.

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