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Shipbreaking: Bangladesh, Liberia Trigger Hong Kong Convention’s Entry Into Force

Mike Schuler
Total Views: 2992
June 26, 2023

More than 14 years since the International Maritime Organization (IMO) adopted of the Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships, the convention has successfully been ratified and is now set to enter into force after 24 months.

This development comes after Bangladesh and Liberia recently became Contracting States to the Convention, commonly known as the Hong Kong Convention.

The primary objective of the Hong Kong Convention is to ensure that ships, when being recycled at the end of their operational lives, do not pose unnecessary risks to human health, safety, and the environment.

The Convention was developed over three and a half years in cooperation with the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the parties to the Basel Convention and adopted during a diplomatic conference in Hong Kong, China, on May 15, 2009. The Convention adopts a comprehensive “cradle to grave” approach that addresses all environmental and safety aspects related to ship recycling, including the responsible management and disposal of associated waste streams in a safe and environmentally sound manner. It also assigns responsibilities and obligations to various stakeholders, including shipowners, shipbuilding yards, ship recycling facilities, flag States, port States, and recycling States.

The Convention’s entry into force has been contingent on meeting certain criteria, including having at least 15 participating States, representing no less than 40% of the world’s merchant shipping by gross tonnage, and a ship recycling capacity of at least 3% of their combined gross tonnage.

Now having met these conditions, the Hong Kong Convention will officially enter into force on June 26, 2025.

Bangladesh, known for its significant role in ship recycling, ratified the Hong Kong Convention earlier this month. Ratification from Liberia, the world’s second-largest flag States in terms of tonnage, now satisfies the requirements necessary to bring the much-awaited Convention into effect.

Once the Hong Kong Convention comes into effect, ships destined for recycling will be required to carry an Inventory of Hazardous Materials onboard. Authorized ship recycling facilities will need to provide a specific Ship Recycling Plan for each individual vessel to be recycled. Governments will also be responsible for ensuring that recycling facilities within their jurisdiction comply with the Convention’s regulations.

As of now, the Hong Kong Convention has gained the participation of 22 contracting parties, including: Bangladesh, Belgium, Republic of the Congo, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Ghana, India, Japan, Liberia, Luxembourg, Malta, the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Norway, Panama, Portugal, São Tomé and Príncipe, Serbia, Spain, and Turkey.

These 22 Contracting States represent approximately 45.81% of the world’s merchant shipping by gross tonnage. Over the past decade, the combined annual ship recycling volume of these states amounts to 23,848,453 gross tonnage, equivalent to 3.31% of the required recycling volume.

The International Chamber of Shipping, representing over 80% of the world merchant fleet, welcomed the news.

“It is overwhelmingly positive for the shipping and recycling industries, and the environment that the Hong Kong Convention has now entered into force following the most recent confirmation of ratification from Bangladesh and the Liberian Registry, a move that the International Chamber of Shipping have championed for 14 years,” said John Stawpert, Senior Manager (Environment and Trade) at the ICS.

“This marks a sea change for this global industry and confirms that in the near future shipowners will be confident that their vessels will find a safe and environmentally sound destination for recycling. The importance of the Convention entering into force, and what it means for ship recycling worldwide cannot be underestimated,” Stawpert added.

“This commitment from Bangladesh and Liberia is more than just a step in the right direction, it is a leap that will benefit the environment and workers in the ship recycling industry,” said BIMCO Secretary General & CEO, David Loosley. BIMCO is the world’s largest shipping organization. “The Hong Kong Convention entering into force means that a fully sustainable ship-recycling industry is possible and within reach.”

“Today is the real beginning, the work starts now. We will continue to call on shipowners to commit to choosing globally compliant yards when their ships reach the end of their life cycle,” Loosley added.

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