What is a Marine Sanitation Device?

Malcolm Tatum

A Marine Sanitation Devices, or MSD, is a piece of equipment that is used to prevent the discharge of untreated sewage into open water. In many cases, the Marine Sanitation Device is part of the personal sanitary equipment that is found on any type of marine vessel. Yachts, sailboats, submarines, pleasure ships, and military seagoing vessels will all carry some type of MSD.

Many marinas provide specific locations where a boat can connect with a sewage system.
Many marinas provide specific locations where a boat can connect with a sewage system.

There are varying degrees of devices that are utilized by different crafts. The most basic is known as a Type I Marine Sanitation Device. Essentially, the system uses chemicals to break down the sewage and reduce the bacterial count to a point below 1,000 per 100 milliliters. This means there will be no solid waste discharged from the vessel in question.

Marine sanitation devices are found on most vessels, including sailboats that can survive open water, that spend time away from the shore.
Marine sanitation devices are found on most vessels, including sailboats that can survive open water, that spend time away from the shore.

A Type II Marine Sanitation Device provides all the benefit of a Type I model, but will break down the raw sewage to a greater degree. This means that the bacteria count is much lower with a Type II device. Vessel discharges that result from the use of a Type II MSD usually have a bacteria count that is under 200 per 100 milliliters.

A Type III Marine Sanitation Device does not involve a vessel discharge while in open water. Instead, this solution involves a holding tank where raw vessel sewage is treated and retained until the waste can be pumped out of the holding tank and directly into a sewage system operated on land.

The chemical toilets found on many yachts are a prime example of a working Marine Sanitation Device. This simple marine sanitary device makes it possible to use a minimum amount of chemicals that help to begin breaking down the waste product while still storing it for discharge once the vessel returns to the docks. Many marinas provide specific locations where a yacht or other vessel can connect with a sewage system and discharge the treated sewage quickly and efficiently.

Persons making use of any type of MSD would do well to learn any applicable local laws regarding the discharge of treated and untreated waste into open water. Many localities have specific locations that are defined as “no discharge areas”, where the release of treated and untreated waste is not allowed. Depending on local laws, persons violating these laws may be subject to heavy fines or even time spent in the local jail.

Marine sanitation devices can allow boats to empty sewage waste from toilets and sinks.
Marine sanitation devices can allow boats to empty sewage waste from toilets and sinks.

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