HNS Convention

The number of contracting States to the International Convention on Liability and Compensation for damage in connection with the carriage of Hazardous and Noxious Substances at Sea (hereafter referred to as the ‘HNS Convention’) currently stands at five. With Norway, Canada, Turkey, Denmark and South Africa, the gross tonnage requirement for entry into force of the convention has been satisfied. However, in addition to meeting the 40 million tonne threshold of contributing cargo, ratification by seven more states is needed.
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New Belgian Shipping Code

On 1 September the long-expected new Belgian Shipping Code entered into force, followed in the course of the following months by the 9 implementing Royal Decrees. RBSA expresses deep appreciation for the hard work delivered by Philippe De Backer, Minister for the North Sea, and the Maritime Law Commission, who have brought Belgium’s maritime law into line with current economic reality.
In that perspective it is very encouraging that Belgium has come to an agreement with the Netherlands, Germany and France to ratify simultaneously. Belgium has drawn up the following timeline for the implementation of the 2010 Convention in Belgium:

If the quota of 12 countries is reached through the ratification of Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands, the convention will enter into force 18 months later.

The HNS Convention is the cornerstone of the Maritime Liability Conventions and, as such, it constitutes a powerful tool to ensure maritime safety and security. RBSA very much looks forward to the convention’s ratification by Belgium.


Ship recycling

With India’s ratification of the Hong Kong Convention, the first of the three criteria for the Convention’s entry into force was met, i.e. the accession of 15 countries to the convention. The main challenge on the road to the Convention’s entry into force remains the accession of countries with a fleet of sufficient size and enough recycling capacity. The mere ratification of the Convention by China before 2023 would suffice. Moreover, Bangladesh also has the ambition to ratify the Convention. On 15 January 2020 the first statement of compliance was issued to a ship recycling facility. However, ratification by Bangladesh will not be enough, as ratification by a larger Flag State will be necessary in that case.

RBSA remains convinced that the Hong Kong Convention is the only legislation capable of guaranteeing the health and safety of people and the environment worldwide. Moreover the Convention can provide legal certainty to shipowners about to decommission vessels having reached the end of their lifecycle. Great legal uncertainty currently exists, especially among European shipowners, on the one hand because of the limited EU list of Ship Recycling Facilities (SRF) under the EU Ship Recycling Regulation, and on the other hand because the Basel Ban Amendment has come into effect. The latter legislation prohibits that vessels at the end of their lifecycle be moved from OECD countries to non-OECD countries for recycling purposes.

In the course of September 2020 the EU published a renewed list of ship recycling facilities (SRF). Because of Brexit, a number of UK facilities needed to re-apply for inclusion on the list, as they henceforth belonged to the category of non-European facilities. Beyond the approved facilities based in Europe, the list still only features eight Turkish ship recycling facilities and a single US-based facility. Several Indian shipping recycling facilities with applications at an advanced stage are still waiting for EU Commission approval. Their identified weaknesses are said to be lack of hospitals and downstream waste management. RBSA however denounces the lack of a clear, transparent framework of requirements to be met for approval by the European Commission and inclusion on the list. RBSA is looking for ways to act as a facilitator. Indeed, an extensive, geographically well-distributed list of EU-approved shipping recycling yards is very much a priority to turn the EU SRR into a success.

As already raised above, the European Commission moreover concluded that, following the entry into force of the Basel Ban Amendment, non-OECD recycling facilities would no longer be entitled to receive vessels for recycling under the EU Ship Regulation. In late 2020 the European Commission submitted the following points to the Member States for their approval:

1. Starting negotiations with India to reach a bilateral agreement

Upon a favourable advice from the EU Council’s legal department to move ahead with negotiations, the European Commission is now waiting for a political advice paving the way to said negotiations.

2. Reviewing the EU Ship Recycling Regulation

The review would start as early as the second half of 2021 for completion by 2023.
The European Commission proposes to make the following changes:

  • Extending the scope to beneficial ownership (rather than European flags)
  • Implementing a financial instrument

RBSA believes that it is much too early to review the EU Ship recycling regulation, as it is impossible to evaluate after such a short implementation period. Moreover the regulation has not yet succeeded in having a real impact and in achieving the original goal, i.e. facilitating the ratification of the Hong Kong Convention.

Map of the EU-listed yards
Ships (
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Inventory of Hazardous Materials (IHM)

Ahead of the deadline of 31st December 2020 for having an IHM onboard, maritime stakeholders called out to the EU Commission for a postponement of the deadline. The lockdown measures and widespread travel restrictions which were introduced to control Covid-19 virus prevented many ship owners from producing the IHM in the first instance. In addition, it also inhibited flag State surveyors and recognised organisations from verifying and certifying the IHMs.

Therefore, considering the disruptions caused by Covid-19, the EU Commission published additional Guidelines in October 2020 to ensure a harmonised approach towards enforcement by the EU port States authorities during ship inspections as of 1 January 2021. The EU Commission invited EU Members States to carefully assess the specific circumstances of each ship owner and the degree to which the case-law of force-majeure might apply.

Due to the Pandemic, a ship calling at an EU port after 31 December 2020 could have onboard an IHM and associated certificate on-board, however, the IHM could have been prepared remotely without any on-board sampling. This situation may have arisen as the on-board surveys that should have been undertaken to support the IHM could not be done because of the restrictions on inspecting a vessel during the Covid-19 pandemic. In the Guidelines the EU Commission clarified that, should the Flag State agree to it, a remote survey/sampling could be exceptionally accepted, considering that since March 2020 there has been little or no opportunity for surveyors to go on-board ships and undertake these surveys.

The RBSA has always encouraged its members to comply as soon as possible with this obligation and to develop an IHM. No major compliance issues have been reported by our members in this regard.