BIMCO, ICS urge IMO to resolve legal inconsistencies in ship recycling conventions

BIMCO and the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), together with Bangladesh, India, Norway, Pakistan have submitted a paper to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to solve possible conflicting requirements of the Hong Kong Convention and the Basel Convention.

Illustration; Image courtesy: NGO Shipbreaking Platform 2014

As informed, the paper was submitted ahead of the 81st Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) meeting on 18-22 March 2024. If left unresolved, the inconsistencies could have severe consequences for shipowners, ship recycling facilities and ships, according to BIMCO and partners.

Ahead of its entering into force, BIMCO and the co-signatories of the paper ask the MEPC of the IMO for more legal certainty. This includes clarification and assurance that shipowners and parties operating in compliance with the Hong Kong Convention will not be sanctioned as a violation of the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal (the Basel Convention). 
“The ratification of the Hong Kong Convention marks the beginning of a new era for the ship recycling industry. We must make sure that legal obstacles and conflicts between the two conventions governing the safe and sound recycling of ships do not limit the scope of this historic opportunity,” BIMCO’s Secretary General & CEO, David Loosley said. 

“We and the co-sponsors of this paper welcome and support the increased transparency and rising standards brought about by the Hong Kong Convention finally entering into force. It is therefore crucial for the consistent implementation of the convention to ensure that compliance does not result in sanctions under the Basel Convention.”

One of the inconsistencies the paper asks the IMO to consider is related to hazardous waste. Once a ship has received an International Ready for Recycling Certificate (IRRC) under the Hong Kong Convention, it may at the same time be considered a hazardous waste under the provisions of the Basel Convention. During the entire validity period of the IRRC (up to three months), the ship could therefore risk being arrested for breach of the Basel Convention requirements while trading, according to BIMCO.
Furthermore, in some jurisdictions, contravention of the Basel Convention, as applied to ship recycling, has resulted in sanctions against shipowners and masters.  
Since both the Hong Kong Convention and the Basel Convention can apply to end-of-life ships, shipowners risk prosecution in cases when the shipowner has sent the ships for safe and environmentally sound recycling at yards that comply with the Hong Kong Convention in one of the four major recycling states, namely Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Türkiye.  

To remind, in May last year, BIMCO revealed that over the next ten years, from 2023 to 2032, more than 15,000 ships with deadweight capacity of more than 600 million tonnes are expected to be recycled, more than twice the amount recycled in the previous ten years.

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Meanwhile, BIMCO, together with ICS, the International Ship Suppliers’ Association (ISSA) and the International HazMat Association (IHMA), developed a new guide to help both shipowners and ship suppliers comply with new ship recycling regulations.

Under both sets of regulations, the shipowner must develop and maintain an Inventory of Hazardous Materials (IHM) for each vessel they own. In support of this, ship suppliers must provide material declarations (MDs) and Supplier’s Declarations of Conformity (SDoC) for equipment delivered to the ship.

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