The European Commission (EC) has listened and reacted to industry’s concern about adhering to the upcoming deadline on 31 December 2020 for the European Union’s Ship Recycling Regulations (EUSRR) inventory of hazardous materials (IHM) owing to the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. The new EC guidelines give shipowners a limited but welcome respite by applying a harmonised approach for a period of 6 months after the entry into application of the IHM obligations.

From 31 December 2020, the European Union’s Ship Recycling Regulations (EUSRR) will require ships of 500 GT and above flying the flag of countries in the European Union (EU), and all other ships regardless of the flag, to carry an inventory of hazardous materials (IHM) when visiting an EU port or anchorage.

In May 2020, BIMCO conducted a survey among its shipowner members and found out that the Covid-19 pandemic had presented multiple challenges towards compliance to this new and upcoming regulation.

Taking this situation into consideration, BIMCO, along with other shipping organisations requested the EU Commission to consider a time-limited implementation or grace period to enable shipping companies to complete the IHM process whilst coping with the Covid-19 restrictions and disruptions. In this regard, EC has today (20 October 2020), published guidelines on the enforcement of obligations under the EUSRR relating to the IHM for ships operating in European waters. In general, the guidelines recognise the challenges posed by Covid-19 and accept there may be several thousand ships that are most probably unable to comply with these obligations by the already set deadline of 31 December 2020.

Therefore, EC has suggested to EU member states to apply a harmonised approach for a limited period of 6 months after the entry into application of the IHM-related obligations for existing EU flagged ships and non-EU flagged ships calling at EU ports (i.e. until 30 June 2021).

In this harmonised approach, the following guidance is provided:

  1. In all cases of non-compliance, including a semi-completed IHM, the burden of proof is on the shipowner/ship master, who should provide evidence of all the measures taken to undertake the IHM work and obtain the required certification and documentation. It should be noted that an automatic recourse to the notion of force-majeure is not an option.
  2. Port State control (PSC) inspectors are advised to assess evidence provided on a case-by-case basis depending on the specific circumstances of the ship in question and decide accordingly. In case of acceptance, the IHM should be completed and approved within 4 months of such a PSC inspection.
  3. If these plans are to be amended further owing to the Covid-19 travel and access restrictions, the shipowner/master should obtain sufficient written evidence from the IHM inspectors for assessment by the next PSC inspector.

The full guidance on the enforcement of obligations under the EU Ship Recycling Regulation relating to the Inventory of Hazardous Materials of vessels operating in European waters can be found below

Source: Hellenic Shipping