The conundrum of the enforcement of the Hong Kong Convention

The conundrum of the enforcement of the Hong Kong Convention

Dr Kanu Priya Jain, coordinator for responsible ship recycling at GMS in Dubai, ponders when scrapping will be forced to clean up its act.

More than eight years after the IMO’s Hong Kong international convention for the safe and environmentally sound recycling of ships (HKC) was adopted, currently, the biggest question being asked in the corridors of the ship recycling industry is “when will the HKC come into force”. The convention aimed at improving the health and safety standards of the ship recycling yards has so far seen a very slow progress towards meeting its entry into force criteria. At the beginning of 2017, only four countries – Belgium, Congo, France and Norway had ratified the convention. The list got only two more additions by the end of 2017 when Denmark and Panama acceded to the convention, which does not translate into the minimum requirements of the convention’s entry into force.

The legislation will enter into force 24 months after the date on which the following conditions are met:

  1. At least 15 states have either signed it without reservation or deposited instruments of ratification/acceptance/approval/accession with the IMO secretary-general.
  2. The combined registered gross tonnage of the states mentioned in ‘1)’ is at least 40% of the total world registered tonnage.
  3. The combined maximum annual recycling capacity of the states mentioned in ‘1)’ in the preceding 10 years is at least 3% of their combined registered tonnage.

Effectively, the above conditions mean that in order for the convention to enter into force, it is required to be ratified/acceded by at least one of the largest shipping registries along with two major recycling nations, which could technically be either of the following combinations – India and China, India and Bangladesh, India and Pakistan, and China and Bangladesh. However, given the state of the industry in Bangladesh and Pakistan, it would be safe to assume that any combination involving Bangladesh or Pakistan isn’t likely in the near future. Therefore, China and India become crucial in this context. Moreover, China (including Hong Kong) having a relatively large percentage of fleet registration becomes even more critical for the HKC’s entry into force.

In light of these requirements, 2017 has been an important year as Denmark and Panama have acceded to the convention. The world’s largest flag state – Panama acceding to the convention means condition #2 mentioned above is getting close to fulfilment. Moreover, Turkey got within the touching distance of submitting the ratification documents to IMO by incorporating the HKC into its domestic law and India completed the draft bill for translating the provisions of the HKC into its domestic law.

Turkey’s ratification and India’s accession to HKC would help impart pressure on other major recycling countries to ratify the convention and its journey towards enforcement will be accelerated.

In conclusion, we have seen some important developments in 2017 stimulating the progression of the HKC towards enforcement. However, more efforts are required to meet the criteria set by the IMO. Other relevant states must step up for the speedy enforcement of the HKC, following Turkey and India’s steps taken in the right direction.

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