The Hong Kong International Convention for the safe and environmentally sound recycling of ships

Adoption: 15 May 2009

Entry into force: 24 months after ratification by 15 States, representing 40 per cent of world merchant shipping by gross tonnage, combined maximum annual ship recycling volume not less than 3 per cent of their combined tonnage

Signatories as at February 2020 (representing just over 30% of world merchant shipping tonnage): Belgium, Congo, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Ghana, India, Japan, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Panama, Serbia and Turkey

The Hong Kong Convention

Adopted in 2009, the Hong Kong Convention is yet to enter into force. It aims at ensuring that ships do not pose any unnecessary risk to human health and safety or to the environment when being recycled at the end of their operational lives.

The Hong Kong Convention covers the design, construction, operation and maintenance of ships to ensure they are responsibly recycled at the end of their lives. It requires that ships sent for recycling are required to carry an inventory of hazardous materials on board as well as provide a ship recycling plan.

Basel Convention on the control of transboundary movements of hazardous wastes and their disposal

Adoption: 22 March 1989

Entry into force: 5 May 1992

53 signatories; 187 parties


The Basel Convention aims to protect human health and the environment by reducing the movement of hazardous materials and preventing the transfer of hazardous waste from developed to less developed countries. The treaty’s obligations include the reduction of waste at source; management of waste within the country in which it is generated; the reduction of transboundary movement of wastes; management of waste in an environmentally sound manner; and controlled waste trade.

The Basel Ban Amendment entered into force on 5 December 2019 and prohibits OECD and EU member states and Liechtenstein from exporting hazardous wastes as defined by the Basel Convention to developing countries.

International Labour Organization

The UN’s International Labour Organisation (ILO) developed a set of criteria on ship recycling endorsed in March 2004. The Safety and Health in Shipbreaking: Guidelines for Asian Countries and Turkey aim to support the implementation of the relevant provisions of ILO standards, codes of practice and other guidelines on occupational safety and health and working conditions as well as those provisions of other relevant international. The guidelines are not legally binding, nor are they intended to replace national laws, regulations or accepted standards.

The European Union

The EU Ship Recycling Regulation (EU SRR) was adopted in 2013, and entered into force on 1 January 2019, by the the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union, with the aim of reducing the negative impacts linked to the recycling of ships flying EU Member State flags. The EU SRR sets out the requirements for ships and ship recycling facilities to ensure ship recycling is conducted in an environmentally sound and safe manner. On 22 January 2020 the European Commission issued the sixth version of the European List of ship recycling facilities (the EU “White List”), listing 41 approved ship recycling facilities, including 6 outside of Europe.

In October 2019, the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) published Guidance on the inspection of ships by the port states in accordance with Regulation (EU) 1257/2013 on ship recycling, aiming to assist EU Member States to fulfil the requirements of EU SRR and PSC Directives.