The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has called upon its member states to develop and designate a key compensation treaty encompassing the transport of hazardous and noxious substances (HNS) by ship.

The International Oil Pollution Compensation Funds (IOPC Funds) and the International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation (ITOPF) have also joined IMO to urge the ratification of the treaty.

The anticipated policy named as the International Convention on Liability and Compensation for Damage in Connection with the Carriage of Hazardous and Noxious substances by Sea, 2010 (2010 HNS Convention), will issue a set of liabilities and offer compensation for damage caused by HNS cargoes transported by sea.

"I urge all States to consider acceding to the HNS 2010 treaty as soon as possible, in order to bring it into force."

It will add to the pre-existing set of guidelines covering 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 as well including ship design, operations and safety on board as well as safety of loading and unloading operations.

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.

The enforcement of the policies is subject to accession by at least 12 states, aligned with certain criteria in relation to tonnage and annually reporting the quantity of HNS cargo received in a state.

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IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim said: "The HNS Convention recognises that accidents can and do happen and it is the last piece in the puzzle needed to ensure that those who have suffered damage caused by HNS cargoes carried on board ships have access to a comprehensive and international liability and compensation regime.

"The number of ships carrying HNS cargoes is growing steadily with more than 200 million tonnes of chemicals traded annually by tankers.

"I urge all States to consider acceding to the HNS 2010 treaty as soon as possible, in order to bring it into force."

The 2010 HNS Convention aims at financially compensating up to 250 million Special Drawing Rights (SDR) of the International Monetary Fund (approximately $380m at current exchange rates) per event.

It includes clean-up and restoring the environment, in the event of an incident involving HNS cargoes.

Shipowners will be liable to incur the cost of an HNS incident.

Registered owners of ships carrying HNS cargoes, have to maintain insurance that is State certified. The HNS Fund compensates once a shipowner’s liability is exhausted and is financed through contributions paid post incident by receivers of HNS cargoes.

The HNS Fund is monitored by States and contributions will be subjected to an assessment of the actual need for compensation.