The Hong Kong Convention on Recycling

The Hong Kong Convention was adopted at a Diplomatic Conference held in Hong Kong, China, in May 2009. IMO Member States; non-governmental organizations; International Labour Organization; and the Parties to the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal, contributed to the forming of Convention.  Regulations in the new Convention cover: the design, construction, operation and preparation of ships. These measures are to facilitate safe and environmentally sound recycling. It intends to address all the issues from build time till the scraping. The ships sold for scrapping may contain environmentally hazardous substances such as asbestos, heavy metals, hydrocarbons, ozone depleting substances and others. A worker unaware of the risks involved in handling these substances, may unknowingly expose himself in great danger.

This Convention enters into force, 24 months after the date on which the following conditions are met:

  1. not less than 15 States have either signed it without reservation as to ratification, acceptance or approval, or have deposited the requisite instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession in accordance with Article 16;
  2. the combined merchant fleets of the States, mentioned in paragraph above constitute not less than 40 per cent of the gross tonnage of the world’s merchant shipping; and
  3. the combined maximum annual ship recycling volume of the States mentioned in paragraph above during the preceding 10 years constitutes not less than 3 per cent of the gross tonnage of the combined merchant shipping of the same States.

Ratification by two large recycling capacity countries or by one large, one medium and one small recycling capacity countries would be more than sufficient for the Convention’s entry into force. On the 29th November 2019, the world’s largest shipbreaking country, India, ratified the Hong Kong Convention.

The Convention includes:
21 Articles, (legal mechanisms);
25 regulations, containing technical requirements;
several appendices, on lists of Hazardous Materials;
forms for certificates; and
various guidelines providing clarifications, interpretations, and uniform procedures for technical issues arising from the provisions of the Convention.

25 regulations are divided in four chapters viz.
1.  General, regulations 1-3;
2.   Requirements for ships, regulations 4-14;
3.   Requirements for ship recycling facilities, regulations 15-23; and
4.   Reporting requirements, regulations 24-25.

The Convention as stated in article 3, shall apply to ships flying the flag of a Party; and Recycling Facilities operating under the jurisdiction of a Party.  This Convention does not apply to warships; government owned non-commercial ships; exclusively domestically operated ships; and ships of less than 500GT. However, such ships shall act in a manner consistent with this Convention, so far as is reasonable and practicable. There will be no more favourable treatment to non party ships.

Convention requires new ships and existing ships to do initial implementation of the HKC as follows:
Prohibit Appendix 1 & Develop Part I for Appendix 2
New ships must ensure: prohibition/restriction in the use in shipbuilding of Hazardous Materials listed in Appendix 1 of the HKC; and development of Part I of Inventory of Hazardous Materials (IHM) for materials listed in Appendix 2 of the HKC.

Develop Par I for Appendix 1 in 5 years & verify
The existing ships must cause development of Part I of Inventory of Hazardous Materials (IHM) at least for materials listed in Appendix 1 of the HKC, within five years from entry into force or at time of recycling if that is earlier. Likewise, the initial survey verifying Part I of IHM and issuance of International Certificate on Inventory of Hazardous Materials (ICIHM) must be done.

All (or any) ships in service must ensure the following:

  • prohibition / restriction in the use of Hazardous Materials listed in Appendix 1 of the HKC in ship repairs and maintenance;
  • updating of Part I of Inventory of Hazardous Materials (IHM) after any installations of materials listed in Appendix 2 of the HKC;
  • renewal / additional survey verifying that Part I of IHM continues to meet HKC; and
  • renewal of ICIHM with 5 years’ maximum validity.

A ship intending to go for recycling has to complete Part II (for operationally generated wastes) and Part III (for stores) of the IHM. The ship thereafter, must notify the Administration (flag State) of intention to recycle the ship and provide the facility with copies of the IHM, the ICIHM, and with any other relevant information. Ship however, must:

  • select an authorized facility (in a Party State) to recycle the ship;
  • ensure that the facility is authorized and capable to deal (types and quantities) with hazardous materials contained in the ship;
  • once the approved Ship Recycling Plan is received from the facility, a final survey is arranged to verify the IHM and that the SRP reflects correctly the IHM. It is also ascertained that it contains other required information;
  • following the final survey the International Ready for Recycling Certificate (IRRC) is obtained from the flag State or its Recognized Organization.

It is the responsibility of the ship recycling States to establish the necessary legislation to ensure that Ship Recycling Facilities (SRF) are designed, constructed, and operated in a safe and environmentally sound manner in accordance with the regulations of this Convention. The State should also establish a mechanism for ensuring that SRF complies with the HKC. Designation of one or more Competent Authorities (CA) and a single contact point to be used by interested entities would be required.

A  Ship Recycling Facilities is authorized by relevant Party, the authorization being of  5 years’ validity. In this period SRF must only accept ships that comply with the Convention, and accept ships authorized to recycle.

Ship Recycling Plan
Ship Recycling Plan includes summary of information on ship and Ship Recycling Facility. Thus, the ship information includes: name, distinctive number or letters; port of registry, IMO number; gross; details of shipowner with id; and company’s IMO number. SRF information includes name, id number; address and telephone of; e-mail address, etc of company. Projected schedule for ship recycling includes dates of arrival, start, completion of recycle and subsequent activities.

The Ship Recycling Facility Plan (SRFP) must cover:

  • workers’ safety and training;
  • protection of human health and the environment;
  • responsibilities of personnel;
  • emergency preparedness and response; and
  • systems for monitoring, reporting and record-keeping.

Sequence of events and role of CA

  1. When approached by a shipowner a ship-specific Ship Recycling Plan (SRP) shall be developed by SRF, based on the information provided (IHM, ICIHM, etc).
  2. SRF shall then notify its CA of the intent. The details provided in the note are regarding: the names of flag State; name of ship with particulars of owner and company; name of classification society; and details regarding the IHM and the draft SRP.
  3. The SRP is approved by CA.
  4. Final survey is conducted.
  5. After acquiring the IRRC, the SRF shall report to its CA.  
  6. Recycling of the ship can start.
  7. When recycling is completed, a Statement of Completion shall be issued by the SRF to its CA. The CA shall copy the Statement to the Administration which issued the IRRC for the ship.

Can the Convention act as a barrier regarding the selection of an SRF? Or Can the non-Party ships be recycled in Party facilities and vice versa?
On the face of it the answer is no. It states that Party States can only accept ships that comply with the Convention (Party ships) or meet the requirements of the Convention (non-Party ships). The cost for a non-Party ship to meet the requirements of the Convention is estimated approximately around US$3 per tonne of light weight, which represents a very modest cost. On the other hand, though, the Party ships can only be recycled at Party Recycling Facilities, there is no legal restriction to selling; deregistering; and changing flag of a merchant ship. Therefore, a Party ship can legally become non-Party ship the cost comes to around US$1 per tonne of light weight. Thus, the HKC cannot act as a barrier, but will help shipowners in respect of appropriate recycling locations.

Various important guidelines relevant to Convention are as follows:

1. Guidelines for the Development of the Ship Recycling Plan. (Recommendations for the development of a Ship Recycling Plan (SRP) in accordance with the requirements of Convention).
2.  2012 Guidelines for Safe and Environmentally Sound Ship Recycling, with:
Appendix 1 Recommended format of the ship recycling facility plan.
Appendix 2 Example format of facility information in SRPF.
Appendix 3 Ship recycling process from preparation to completion.
Appendix 4 Relevant instruments of the international labour organization.
3.   2012 Guidelines for the Authorization of Ship Recycling Facilities, adopted by resolution.
4.   2012 Guidelines for the Survey and Certification of ships under the Hong Kong Convention, adopted by resolution. 
5. 2012 Guidelines for the Inspection of Ships under the Hong Kong Convention, adopted by resolution. 
6.   2015 Guidelines for the Development of the Inventory of Hazardous Materials.

Guidelines for the Development of the Inventory of Hazardous Materials comprises of:
Part I: Materials contained in Ship Structure or Equipment;
Part II: Operationally Generated Wastes; and
Part III: Stores.

List of Appendices
Appendix 1: Items to be listed in the Inventory of Hazardous Materials. (Each item is classified under tables A, B, C or D, according to its properties. Tables A and B correspond to part I; Table C to parts II and III; and table D corresponds to part III).
Appendix 2: Standard format of the Inventory of Hazardous Materials.
Appendix 3: Example of the development process for part I of the Inventory for new ships.
Appendix 4: Flow diagram for developing part I of the Inventory for existing ships.
Appendix 5: Example of the development process for part I of the Inventory for existing ships.
Appendix 6: Form of Material Declaration.
Appendix 7: Form of Supplier’s Declaration of conformity.
Appendix 8: Examples of table A and table B materials of appendix 1 with CAS-numbers.
Appendix 9: Specific test methods.
Appendix 10: Examples of radioactive sources. Composition of the IHM must be done by ships at delivery. The Existing ships must compile Part I not later than 5 years of entry into force. Part Ii & III must be done prior recycling.

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