Oil Record Book Guidelines


References: (a) MARPOL, International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, Consolidated Edition 2011

 (b) IMO Circular MEPC.1/Circ.736/Rev.2, Guidance for the Recording of Operations in the Oil Record Book Part I - Machinery Space Operations (All Ships)


This Marine Guideline provides information for shipowners, operators, Masters, and officers the proper maintenance and keeping of an official Oil Record Book (ORB) as required by MARPOL Annex I. This Guideline should also be used by Recognized Organizations when conducting statutory verification surveys. 


The provisions of MARPOL Annex I apply to all ships except where expressly provided.


An Oil Record Book Part I is to be carried on board every oil tanker of 150 gross tons and above and every other ship of 400 gross tons and above to record relevant machinery space operations. In addition, Oil Tankers of 150 gross tons and above shall also carry an Oil Record Book Part II to record cargo and ballast operations.

Starting New Books

1. Before starting to make actual entries to record operations, the cover of the Oil Record Book

should be completed. Fill in the relevant information on the front cover and check:


PART II – CARGO AND BALLAST OPERATIONS (TANKERS*) (* A non-tanker that carries more than 200 cubic meters of oil, in bulk as cargo, must also maintain an Oil Record) Book Part II.

For Part I books, the Plan View page need not be completed and, preferably, a single line should be drawn diagonally across the page. For Part II books, this page should be completed to accurately indicate the arrangement of cargo and slops tanks, as well as the pump room. Each of the tanks and their capacities should be included in the table provided.

Language, Entry Sign-Off

2. The Oil Record Book must be written in English.

All operations described in the instructions are to be clearly and accurately recorded. Entries should be made by the individual primarily responsible for the operation directly upon completion of the operation. At the earliest opportunity, each entry should then be reviewed for completeness by the Chief Engineer, Chief Mate or other person clearly identified in the ship’s Safety Management System, such as the ship’s Environmental Officer. Each completed operation is to be signed and dated by the officer or officers in charge. As each page in the book is completed, it must be reviewed and countersigned by the Master.


3. The instruction pages contain a comprehensive list of items which are, when appropriate, to be recorded in the ORB according to Regulations 17 and 36 of Annex I of MARPOL. The items have been grouped into operational sections, each of which is denoted by a letter code.

4. When making entries, the date, operational letter code and item number is to be inserted in the appropriate columns and the details must be recorded chronologically in the blank spaces. Care must be taken to ensure the narrative record entry accurately identifies the exact operation which was carried out. Supporting relevant information such as quantity, time, position, reference to receipts for disposal, etc., must be included, as appropriate. Any receipts which are referenced should be attached to the Oil Record Book or be readily available for review.

IMO Circular Help

5. The IMO has approved a circular containing guidance for recording of operations in the Oil Record Book Part I – machinery space operations (all ships). It is designed to ease compliance with the requirements of MARPOL Annex I by providing advice and examples to crews on how to record the various operations and to ensure more uniform port State control procedures. The Administrator fully endorses the guidance provided under MARPOL and recommends shipowners and operators issue the IMO circular, as amended, to Masters and officers of vessels for use in conjunction with this Marine Guideline.

Choosing Entry Codes

6. The Administrator recognizes that various vessel configurations and the vagueness of code and item definitions may lead to different ideas as to which code is to be used for a particular circumstance. A good faith entry made following these instructions and including a code letter, item number (clearly identifying the material), an accurate account of operations carried out, and which has all relevant required information provided, will satisfy the intent of the Convention’s Oil Record Book entry requirements. 

It is recognized that the choice of code used is possibly subject to different interpretation by third parties, but that should not be considered a contravention or be grounds for adverse or punitive enforcement actions by port or coastal State Authorities.

7. The ORB contains many references to oil quantity. The limited accuracy of tank measurement devices, temperature variations, and clingage will affect the accuracy of these readings. The entries in the Oil Record Book should be considered accordingly.

Recording corrections

8. Corrections may, and should be made, to the ORB when appropriate and in an obvious manner and should describes the circumstances which led to the need for a corrective entry and clearly describes the previous entry being corrected. If it is discovered that there has been a failure to make a required entry, it should be made immediately in the next available line of the current Oil Record Book. This entry should

accurately reflect the operation regarding the date, code, item, and description of the operations, as well as a reason as to why the entry is being made at later date. 

No attempt should ever be made to erase or modify previous entries in a manner other than described above, nor should Oil Record Books be re-written, even to make them more legible. Such actions may be viewed as attempts to mislead or cover-up inappropriate activity.

Entry Care and Completeness

9. Care must be used in assuring the accuracy and completeness of entries in the ORB as the entries made, as well as other required recordkeeping documents, constitute testimony by those making the entries and those responsible for endorsing and keeping the logbooks. 

Oil Record Books that do not accurately reflect conditions on the vessel or the operations conducted are often seen as false testimony or evidence of wrongdoing by authorities carrying out obligations under the MARPOL Convention, as well as coastal requirements. Masters are well advised to exercise strict oversight and control over the maintenance and safekeeping of the book.

10. Owners, their legal advisors, Masters, and Officers are reminded that, besides the statutory requirements for maintenance of an Oil Record Book, this written evidence is a valuable means of providing proof that the ship has complied with anti-pollution regulations.

ORB Retention

11. The Oil Record Book must always be available for examination by inspectors of any port or coastal State Authority when within their jurisdiction. 

In accordance with MARPOL Annex I, completed ORBs are to be preserved for a period of three (3) years after the last entry has been made. The ORB shall be retained onboard and forwarded to the shipowner or operator as provided for in written company policy. If casualty occurs during a voyage which is covered by the Oil Record Book, it must be retained for as long as instructed by the Maritime Administrator.

12. Only in exceptional circumstances, such as when a port or coastal State Authority gives a legal basis and the reasons why it is necessary, may the current or completed Oil Record Books be removed from the vessel. These must be replaced by certified copies, and a receipt, be left on board, is to be provided to the Master by the removing authority. It is to state the reason for the removal. The Administrator must be notified immediately of these cases.

Ship Management Changes

13. When ship management changes, Oil Record Books are often removed from the ship for safekeeping by the former managers. Each book is to be kept for a period of not less than three (3) years from the date of last entry and must remain available for inspection by the Administrator or another competent authority, as required. Additionally, a certified copy of the last Oil Record Book in use must be left on board for the benefit of the new managers, with entries covering a period of not less than six (6) months. Certification by the Master, that the copy onboard is a true and accurate representation of the original, is acceptable. A new Oil Record Book, from the date of new management, must then be placed on board and started with an entry indicating the reason for the new Oil Record Book as change of ship management.

(This article is for informational purposes only.)



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