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Ratification of HNS Convention is a matter of urgency

During the European Shipping Week 2020, shipowners organised an event as part of their ratification campaign of the 2010 International Convention on Liability and Compensation for Damage in connection with the Carriage of Hazardous and Noxious Substances by Sea (HNS Convention). 

Wednesday’s event gathered representatives from the IMO, the IOPC fund, the European Commission, Member States as well as industry representatives to speak about the purpose and benefit of the Convention, how the convention will strengthen the international liability framework and the main reasons why states are being encouraged to ratify or accede to the Convention as soon as possible.

It also served as an opportunity to hear the experiences from both states that have ratified and those that are still to ratify. Representatives of the IMO and the IOPC fund offered their expertise to assist interested states in the ratification process.

The representative of the European Commission recalled the importance of the Convention and the 2017 Council Decision that urged EU Member States to ratify by May 2021. The Commission also offered its assistance, where possible, in this process.

“The HNS Convention is an important part of the international maritime liability and compensation regime as it establishes a comprehensive scheme covering pollution damage from hazardous and noxious substances carried by ships. The shipping industry strongly supports its ratification,” said ECSA Secretary General, Martin Dorsman.

“To date, Denmark is the only EU Member State that ratified the Convention and today we heard why it considered ratification very important and how it had prepared for ratification. We were encouraged to hear today that a number of other EU Member States including France, Netherlands and Belgium, plan to ratify in the near future,” said Viggo Bondi, Chairman of ECSA’s Legal Advisory Committee.

“We welcome this important development and encourage all other Member States to progress their efforts to ratify the Convention as soon as possible. In this way the EU will lead by example and enable the Convention’s entry into force. This is important as the shipping is the most international of industries and it needs global rules and a level playing field.”

Background: 

The 2010 HNS Convention establishes a comprehensive, uniform and global set of liability rules covering pollution damage from hazardous and noxious substances carried by ships, as well as the risks of fire and explosion, including loss of life, personal injury and loss of or damage to property. In the case of larger pollution incidents, where the damages exceed the limit of the shipowner, the HNS Fund pays “top up” compensation. This two-tier liability regime ensures better protection and compensation for potential victims of an incident with hazardous and noxious substances at sea. The Convention is increasingly important as the carriage of HNS by sea is growing by almost all ship types including: container ships, chemical, liquefied natural gas (LNG) and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) tankers.

The Convention will enter into force eighteen months after ratification by at least twelve States. In April 2017, Norway became the first state to ratify the 2010 Protocol to the Convention followed by Canada, Turkey and Denmark in 2018 and South Africa in July 2019.

It is also required that:

  1. Four States must each have a registered tonnage of at least 2 million GT (this requirement has now been met) and
  2. Contributors in the States that have ratified the Convention must have received during the preceding calendar year a minimum of 40 million tonnes of cargo consisting of bulk solids and other HNS liable for contributions.

Parts of the Convention fall within the EU’s exclusive competence in the area of maritime transport.

With its Council Decision (EU) 2017/769 of the 25th of April 2017, the Council of the European Union authorised its Member States to ratify or accede to the “Protocol of 2010 to the International Convention on Liability and Compensation for Damage in Connection with the Carriage of Hazardous and Noxious Substances by Sea”, with the exception of the aspects related to judicial cooperation in civil matters. Member States were called upon to take the necessary steps to deposit the instruments of ratification of, or accession to, the Protocol of 2010 within a reasonable time and, if possible, by 6 May 2021.