Advancing Sustainable Ship Recycling: The Imperative of Hong Kong Convention (HKC) as the Sole Regulation

26 Dec 2023
Author: Dr. Anand Hiremath

Ship recycling, constituting a fundamental pillar of the maritime industry, is pivotal for environmental and safety considerations. The Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships (HKC), slated to take effect in the next 18 months, stands out as a crucial regulatory framework designed to navigate the complexities inherent in ship disposal. This article critically explores the key arguments supporting the adoption of HKC as the exclusive regulation, taking into account the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the United Arab Emirates Ship Recycling Regulation, the Basel Convention, and the Basel Ban Amendment.

HKC Compliance and Addressing Overlapping Regulations

The HKC, established by the IMO, serves as a comprehensive guide for the safe and environmentally sound recycling of ships. Notably, HKC was formulated after recognized authorities such as Basel and the International Labour Organization (ILO) acknowledged the need for a dedicated ship recycling regulation around 2005. Its ratification, spanning nearly 15 years, underscores its meticulous approach in reconciling environmental and safety concerns inherent in ship recycling. The provision for amendments, especially to address social and downstream waste management challenges, positions HKC as a singular IMO regulation, alleviating challenges for ship owners posed by region-specific regulations.

Basel Convention and Ban Amendment Challenges

The Basel Convention, originally designed to manage hazardous waste movement, faces limitations in adapting to ships as shipping work on the concept of “flag state” and exporting country and transit countries are fixed unlike other hazardous wastes. The Basel Ban Amendment, restricting the export of hazardous waste from developed to developing nations, introduces complexities in ship movements, creating challenges for ship owners navigating intricate international regulations.

Vienna Convention's Emphasis on Contemporary Regulatory Frameworks

Guided by the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, the global community recognizes the significance of the latest conventions in resolving conflicting obligations. This principle underscores the need for a contemporary regulatory framework, strengthening the case for HKC as a leading international standard in ship recycling.

Ratification Status in South Asian Countries

Despite India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan ratifying the Basel Convention, the absence of endorsement for the Basel Ban Amendment highlights challenges in aligning regional regulations with evolving global standards.

Basel Ban Impact on Ship Movements and Legal Consequences

The Basel Ban Amendment's restrictive stance on waste movement, particularly end-of-life ships, poses challenges, risking legal consequences for non-compliance. Ship owners may inadvertently breach the law even when adhering to the latest convention, HKC, meant for safe and environmentally sound ship recycling.

Streamlining with Ready for Recycling Certificate

 In promoting a streamlined process, the Ready for Recycling certificate under HKC should be regarded as the definitive document confirming adherence to HKC, Basel, and the Basel Ban Amendment. Advocates propose international acceptance of this certificate, fostering a standardized approach to ship recycling globally.

UAE Ship Recycling Regulation Challenges and Global Standardization

The UAE Ship Recycling Regulation, with restrictions on nearly 95% of recycling destinations, strains global drydock capacity. This underscores the need for a uniform and globally accepted standard to facilitate ship recycling operations worldwide.

Capacity Challenges and Retrofitting Work

Limited drydock capacity and increased retrofitting work, driven by Carbon Intensity Indicator (CII) and Energy Efficiency Existing Ship Index (EEXI) rules, present challenges in the maritime industry. Drydocks, traditionally designed for shipbuilding and repair, lack an ecosystem for efficient ship recycling, leading to suboptimal utilization of scrap materials.

HKC as the Pivotal Governing Rule

Recognizing HKC as the sole governing rule for ship recycling emerges as a strategic imperative. While allowing for amendments as needed, a uniform regulatory framework ensures clarity, compliance, and successful navigation of environmental and safety considerations in ship recycling.


The transition towards making HKC the exclusive regulation for ship recycling is imperative for fostering sustainability, environmental stewardship, and safety within the maritime industry. By addressing overlapping regulations and embracing a unified approach, the international community can lead ship recycling practices toward a safer and environmentally responsible future.


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Ship Recycling Team

About Author

Dr. Anand M. Hiremath, Chief Sustainability Officer of GMS Leadership, is a Civil Engineer and holds a Master's Degree in Environmental Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati (IIT Guwahati) India. He has a diploma in industrial safety and is a qualified lead auditor for ISO 9k, 14k and 184.

Dr. Hiremath published the first practical handbook on ship recycling, entitled: 'The Green Handbook: A Practical Checklist to Monitor the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships' which highlights the procedures the GMS SSORP follows to help both Ship and Yard Owners recycle a vessel in an environmentally-friendly manner. Dr. Hiremath is the Course Director for the first-of-its-kind 14-week online course on Ship Recycling offered by Lloyd's Maritime Academy, London."

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Ship Recycling Team