Nordisk Skibsrederforening

The Hong Kong Convention: Advancing Safe and Sustainable Ship Recycling Practices

14 years since its adoption by IMO, the Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships (the “Convention”) is finally set to become a reality. After several years of Norwegian funding of a capacity-building program in Bangladesh; Bangladesh recently decided to ratify the Hong Kong Convention, to accelerate the local compliance with the Convention’s requirements. Following Bangladesh, Liberia decided to ratify the Convention shortly thereafter and is the 22nd country to do so. As a result, the Convention is now scheduled to enter into force on June 26, 2025.

Background and objectives
The Convention was developed by the IMO in 2009, due to the need for a globally applicable instrument for responsible ship recycling.  The Convention has since been ratified by 22 countries and seeks to achieve two primary objectives: safeguarding the well-being of shipyard workers and preserving the environment.

To achieve these goals, the Convention applies to both (i) vessels (over 500GT and above) who are entitled to fly the flag of a signatory party or operating under its authority, and to (ii) ship recycling facilities operating under the jurisdiction of a signatory party.

Currently, the signatory parties are Bangladesh, Belgium, Republic of the Congo, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Ghana, India, Japan, Liberia, Luxembourg, Malta, Kingdom of the Netherlands, Norway, Panama, Portugal, São Tomé and Príncipe, Serbia, Spain and Türkiye.

As a result, owners with vessels flying the flag of a signatory party, or operating under its authority, must make sure that their vessels comply with the regulations set out in the Convention. This article will highlight some of the key considerations for owners who are subject to the Convention’s regulations.

Key considerations for Shipowners
To achieve the overall objective of the Convention, the Convention imposes specific requirements for both the working life of a ship, and for the recycling of an end-of-life ship. As a result, owners must comply with the regulations set out in the Convention during the entire life of the ship.

The contracting states have the authority to investigate vessels suspected of violating the Convention, and to take appropriate actions if there are any breaches, including exclusions from their ports.

The key requirements for owners bound by the Convention, are as follows:

1. Surveys

All vessels are subject to an initial, renewal (occurring at specific intervals, not exceeding five years), and final survey during their operational life, which surveys will, in many if not all instances, be carried out by the vessel’s classification society. These surveys are intended to ensure that the vessel complies with the restrictions against use and installation of Hazardous Materials. Successful initial or renewal surveys lead to the issuance of an International Certificate of Inventory of Hazardous Materials (IHM), while the final survey results in an International Ready for Recycling Certificate.

For newly constructed vessels, the initial survey will be conducted before the vessel is commissioned into service.

2. Restrictions against installation and use of Hazardous Materials

The state parties to the Convention must restrict or prohibit the installation and use of hazardous materials on vessels flying their flag or operating under their authority. The vessels must comply with these restrictions throughout their operational life. This applies not only to ships in active service but also those in shipyards, repair yards, offshore terminals, and ports.

All ships must carry a certified and continuously updated Inventory of Hazardous Materials (IHM) specific to the ship. The IHM is issued after initial or renewal surveys, for a maximum period of five years.

3. Ready to Recycle Plan

The vessel must undergo a final inspection before it can be recycled. Subject to compliance with the Convention’s conditions, an International Ready for Recycling Certificate is issued, valid for up to three months. Throughout this transition, ships are required to minimize cargo residues, remaining fuel oil, and waste on board.

For all end-of-life ships who are destined to be recycled, the ship recycling facility is required to develop a so-called “Ship Recycling Plan” (SRP). The owner shall provide all parts of the completed IHM and other necessary information to the ship recycling facility, in order to facilitate for the development of the SRP.

The owner must control that the details contained in the SRP match the IHM. If there are any discrepancies, the owner should identify these for action by the recycling facility.

4. Recycling only at Authorized Ship Recycling Facilities

Recycling of the ship must be completed at an approved Ship Recycling Facility. The facility must be authorized in accordance with the requirements set out in the Convention.

At present, no comprehensive overview of approved Ship Recycling Facilities under the Convention exists. However, it is anticipated that such an overview will become available as the Convention approaches its entry into force date in 2025. Importantly, while the Ship Recycling Facilities listed under the EU Ship Recycling Regulation (the “EU SRR”) are expected to achieve approved status as Ship Recycling Facilities under the Hong Kong Convention, this outcome is not assured. The EU SRR imposes stricter regulations on Ship Recycling Facilities compared to the Hong Kong Convention. Consequently, these two regulatory frameworks do not necessarily align.

The EU Regulations and the road ahead
The European Union has also addressed ship recycling through its own regulation, known as the EU SRR. While largely aligned with the Hong Kong Convention, the EU SRR introduces additional safety and environmental criteria. Three notable differences are:

  • The EU SRR adds two more materials to the IHM: Perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) for EU-flagged ships and Brominated Flame Retardant (HBCDD) for new EU-flagged ships.
  • EU-flagged vessels must have the EU Ready for Recycling Certificate (RRC). As a result, vessels can only be sent to yards included in the European List of Ship Recycling Facilities. This list does not necessarily correspond with the approved Ship Recycling Facilities under the Hong Kong Convention, as the EU SRR imposes stricter requirements for the ship recycling facilities, inter alia, the requirement that all ship recycling facilities operate from ‘built structures’, such as pontoons, quays, slipways, and docks.
  • According to the EU SRR, the Ship Recycling Facilities must also comply with the relevant guidelines of the IMO, ILO, Basel Convention and Stockholm Convention on persistent organic pollutants to be approved. Furthermore, for EU-flagged vessels, owners must provide the operator of the Ship Recycling Facility with a copy of the Ready for Recycling Certificate.

The EU has also adopted the European Waste Shipment Regulation, extending the obligations of the UN Basel Convention. Stricter waste handling regulations and the Basel Ban Amendment, restricting waste disposal shipment to non-OECD countries, are incorporated. However, end-of-life ships can still be sent to recycling facilities in developing countries if the countries are able to manage them sustainably.  Both EU regulations are presently under review within the EU.

Given that the Convention requirements impact the life of a vessel, not just the end; Members are encouraged to start preparing for how to comply with the anticipated requirements. The Nordisk Recycling Team has extensive knowledge of recycling issues and are prepared to assist members with queries that should arise.

The Nordisk Recycling Team:

  Mats E. Sæther / msather@nordisk.no

 

 

 

 

  Olav Eriksen /  oeriksen@nordisk.no 

 

 

 

 

  Ola G. Mediås / omedias@nordisk.no 

 

 

 

 

  Mina Walen Simensen / msimensen@nordisk.no