In February, The Telegraph revealed that ships are regularly dumping large quantities of noxious palm oil off the coast of Britain without legal consequences.During 2016 and 2017 seven instances of palm oil contaminating British waters were documented by satellites operated by the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA).Two spills in the southern part of the North Sea left oil slicks stretching for more than 44 miles, according to EMSA records.Palm oil spills have a similar impact on the marine environment as fossil fuel oils by depleting water of oxygen, killing fish, coating the wings of birds, and washing up on beaches.All seven of the pollution incidents identified by the EMSA satellites were labelled as permitted discharges by the MCA and no action was taken against the shipping companies.Under existing international law vessels are permitted to discharge up to 100 litres of water that is contaminated by palm oil for each chemical tank on board, and lager discharges can be permitted in extenuating circumstances, such as if abandoning a polluting cargo is essential to securing the safety of a ship.Prior to the IMO decision in February the UK had pushed for the legislation to be implemented earlier, according to the British regulator, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA).In a statement, the MCA said it is currently looking into the possibility of negotiating a regional deal to crack down on the dumping of food oils in British waters.“The UK had sought an earlier date and is now engaged in discussions with other North Sea States on the practicality, and legality, of implementing these restrictions earlier on a regional basis,” it said. “UK ports have oily water reception facilities that were put in place to process crude oil waste,” said Paul Johnston, an honorary research fellow at the University of Exeter and principal scientist at Greenpeace’s research laboratories.“This legislation is already long overdue. Elsewhere there might be a need for specific ports to have a bit of time to catch up and install these reception facilities – but the UK, and Europe more generally, is in a position where it could implement this legislation immediately.”Gillian Glegg, the associate head of marine science at Plymouth University, believes the UK is in a position to lead the way globally, by taking action ahead of the 2021 deadline.“Once a regulator has decided that something like this is causing harm and there is good reason to ban it you obviously want to implement changes as soon as possible,” she said.“There are technical issues for some organisations and countries that don’t have the infrastructure to deal with that material – but I don’t see why the UK cannot bring this in ahead of the 2021 deadline.” Campaigners have called for action after the maritime regulator ruled that foreign ships can continue to dump palm oil in British waters for three years.In February, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) approved regulation that will require tankers carrying palm oil and other food oils to pump the tank residue into purpose-built disposal facilities, instead of washing it out in open water.But the new rules will not come into force until July 1, 2021, a timeframe the IMO says will give states and industry time to increase capacity at shore-based oil disposal facilities.Britain already has the infrastructure required to deal with oil residue and experts say it should ban the dumping of food oils in British waters ahead of the 2021 deadline. Palm oil being cleared from Chesil Beach in dorsetCredit:Steve Trewhella/Alamy Stock Photo Palm oil is toxic to dogsCredit:Steve Trewhella/Alamy Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings.