Hong Kong Convention on Ship Recycling ratified by Belgian Authorities
On March 10th 2017, Belgium has ratified the IMO Hong Kong Convention on the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships of May 15th 2009. The Convention is aimed at ensuring that ships, when being recycled after reaching the end of their operational lives, do not pose any unnecessary risks to human health, safety and to the environment.
The convention intends to address all the issues around ship recycling, including the fact that ships sold for scrapping may contain environmentally hazardous substances such as asbestos, heavy metals, hydrocarbons, ozone-depleting substances and others. It also addresses concerns raised about the working and environmental conditions at many of the world's ship recycling locations.
Regulations in the new Convention cover: the design, construction, operation and preparation of ships so as to facilitate safe and environmentally sound recycling without compromising the safety and operational efficiency of ships; the operation of ship recycling facilities in a safe and environmentally sound manner; and the establishment of an appropriate enforcement mechanism for ship recycling, incorporating certification and reporting requirements.
Upon entry into force of the Hong Kong Convention, ships to be sent for recycling will be required to carry an inventory of hazardous materials, which will be specific to each ship. An appendix to the Convention provides a list of hazardous materials the installation or use of which is prohibited or restricted in shipyards, ship repair yards, and ships of Parties to the Convention. Ships will be required to have an initial survey to verify the inventory of hazardous materials, additional surveys during the life of the ship, and a final survey prior to recycling.
Ship recycling yards will be required to provide a "Ship Recycling Plan", specifying the manner in which each ship will be recycled, depending on its particulars and its inventory. Parties will be required to take effective measures to ensure that ship recycling facilities under their jurisdiction comply with the Convention.
It will enter into force 24 months after the date on which 15 States, representing 40 per cent of world merchant shipping by gross tonnage, have either signed it without reservation as to ratification, acceptance or approval or have deposited instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession with the Secretary-General. Furthermore, the combined maximum annual ship recycling volume of those States must, during the preceding 10 years, constitute not less than 3 per cent of their combined merchant shipping tonnage. For more detailed information please refer to resolution MEPC.178(59) on the calculation of the recycling capacity for meeting the entry-into-force conditions of the Hong Kong Convention and document MEPC 64/INF.2/Rev.1 on the same topic.
Belgium is only the fith country ratifying the Convention (after DRC, France, Panama and Norway). Given the fact that the treaty involves both federal and regional matters, not only the Federal Belgian State, but also the Flemmish, Brussels and Walloon legislators had to ratify the treaty.
However, the Hong Kong Convention is not the only upcoming legislative instrument that will govern ship recycling practices. The EU has recently adopted Regulation no. 1257/2013 (Commission and Parliament) on ship recycling (and amending Regulation (EC) No 1013/2006 and Directive 2009/16/EC). This Regulation is aimed at "facilitating early ratification of the Hong Kong Convention both within the Union and in third countries by applying proportionate controls to ships and ship recycling facilities on the basis of that Convention" and its purpose is, according to article 1 "to enhance safety, the protection of human health and of the Union marine environment throughout a ship′s life-cycle, in particular to ensure that hazardous waste from such ship recycling is subject to environmentally sound management". The EU regulation will enter in force the latest on December 31st 2018 and will oppose stricter rules on the owners of Sea Going Vessels.
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