The Legal Committee of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has approved a draft protocol to the 1996 HNS Convention (the International Convention on Liability and Compensation for Damage in Connection with the Carriage of Hazardous and Noxious Substances by Sea).
The draft Protocol is designed to address practical problems that have prevented many states from ratifying the original Convention which, despite being adopted in 1996, has, to date, only 13 ratifications and is some way from meeting the level of ratification that would trigger its entry into force.
The 1996 HNS Convention is based on the highly successful model of the Civil Liability and Fund Conventions. Like the regime introduced by the latter Convention, it seeks to establish a two-tier system for compensation to be paid in the event of accidents at sea, in this case involving hazardous and noxious substances, such as chemicals. Tier one will be covered by compulsory insurance taken out by ship owners, who would be able to limit their liability; in those cases where the insurance does not cover an incident, or is insufficient to satisfy the claim, compensation shall be paid from a fund, made up of contributions from the receivers of HNS. Contributions will be calculated according to the amount of HNS received in each State in the preceding calendar year.
However, among the obstacles that have discouraged ratification of the Convention, one of the most difficult to overcome has been the requirement for states to report the quantities of HNS received to IMO.