As IMO informs, the transport of hazardous and noxious substances (HNS) by sea is a vital trade. Chemicals and other products underpin many manufacturing processes and therefore IMO regulations ensure their safe transport. However, incidents do happen and the HNS Convention is the last piece in the puzzle needed to ensure that those who have suffered damage have access to a comprehensive and international liability and compensation regime.

According to the IMO, the treaty's entry into force, which requires accession by at least 12 States, when in force, will provide a regime of liability and compensation for damage caused by HNS cargoes transported by sea, complementing existing regimes already in force for the transport of oil as cargo, bunker oil used for the operation and propulsion of ships, the removal of hazardous wrecks and claims for death of or personal injury to passengers, or for damage to their luggage, on ships.

IMO measures relating to the prevention of accidents that involve HNS cargoes are already in force, including ship design, operations and safety on board as well as safety of loading and unloading operations. There is also a Protocol covering preparedness and response to shipping accidents involving hazardous substances. However, the treaty aims to deliver the uniform and comprehensive regime needed to provide compensation for costs, including clean-up and restoring the environment, in the event of an incident involving HNS cargoes.

HNS covered by the Convention include:

  • oils;
  • other liquid substances defined as noxious or dangerous;
  • liquefied gases;
  • liquid substances with a flashpoint not exceeding 60˚C;
  • dangerous, hazardous and harmful materials and substances carried in packaged form or in containers;
  • and solid bulk materials defined as possessing chemical hazards.

Benefits of the 2010 HNS Convention

The HNS Convention establishes that the polluter pays by ensuring that the shipping and HNS industries provide compensation for those who have suffered loss or damage resulting from an HNS incident.

• It is an international regime based on a well tested system of international conventions for compensation for oil spills from tankers.

• It provides a framework for States adopting the HNS Convention and it is directly administered by those States that are members of the regime.

• The HNS Convention benefits all State Parties (producing, receiving and coastal States) through a system of strict liability and clear claims criteria .

• The shipping, oil, gas, chemical, petrochemical and other HNS industries are committed to paying such compensation through an international system:

• Shipowners are held strictly liable up to a maximum limit of liability for the cost of an HNS incident.

• Shipowners are required to have insurance that is State certified. Claimants may take action directly against the insurer.

• Receivers of bulk HNS cargoes contribute to an international compensation fund administered by States.

• Contributions will be based on the actual need for compensation.

• Up to SDR 250 million is available per incident.

IMO, together with the International Oil Pollution Compensation Funds (IOPC Funds) and the International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation (ITOPF), has disseminated a six-page brochure that explains to States the purpose and benefit of the HNS Convention and encourages IMO Member States to take the next steps to ratify or accede to the Convention.