Ratification of the Hong Kong Convention – what does it mean in practice?

By Live Jacob Syndness, Vice President, Head of Sustainable Business and Kim Jefferies Special Adviser, Loss Prevention, Gard AS

Bangladesh and Liberia are now signatories to the Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships. The Convention will enter into force in June 2025. What does that mean in practice, both for ship owners and the wider maritime industry?

First and foremost, the Hong Kong (HK) Convention’s ratification and ultimate entry into force (which happens 24 months after ratification, i.e. 26 June 2025) is a good thing for the industry as it provides a clear set of requirements and a certification process for those facilities that meet them. IUMI, and Gard as one of its members, have been clear supporters of the Hong Kong Convention for several years and welcome the fact that it finally enters into force. Shipping is a global business and a uniform practice in terms of ship recycling is essential to level the playing field and to protect both people and the environment. 

Mind the Gap

The IMO adopted the HK Convention in 2009. In the meantime, the EU adopted its own ship recycling regulations governing EU-flagged ships. While the EU ship recycling regulations were modelled on the terms of the Hong Kong Convention, they go further than the Convention by requiring recycling to be performed in authorised shipyards included on the so-called “European List”.

The European List of approved facilities includes yards in several EU nations as well as facilities in Norway, Turkey, the United States and the UK. Currently, there are no South Asian yards on the approved list. Among the top recycling nations, India and Bangladesh are signatories to the HK Convention and several yards, particularly in India, have previously commissioned and received certification from classification societies that they are “Hong Kong compliant” even though the Convention was not yet ratified.

The HK Convention requires each signatory nation to establish a mechanism for authorising ship recycling facilities to ensure that the facility meets the requirements of the Convention. The authorisation (called a “Document of Authorization Ship Recycling”, issued by a competent authority or delegated by such authority to entities such as class societies) certifies that the facility has met the requirements of the HK Convention and will only accept ships for recycling that comply also.

Such certification will not, however, allow EU and EEA-flagged ships to recycle in a yard that is not also on the European List. The HK Convention itself makes clear that states are free, individually or jointly, to require more stringent standards.

Going forward

It remains to be seen whether any of the South Asian facilities that have applied will ultimately be included in the European List. Irrespective of what may become a two-tiered system, the ratification of the HK Convention can only be seen as a positive development. While we all benefit from improvements in safety and protection of the environment, it is the workers at the authorised facilities who will benefit the most.