The ratification of previously agreed and adopted international legal instruments for shipping is important because without sufficient national ratifications the legal instruments will not enter into force and become effective, and because a State cannot vote on the amendment of an instrument to improve its effectiveness unless it has ratified and become a Party to that legal instrument.
MARPOL Annex VI and the EEDI
The latter issue has become particularly important in recent months because the first global measure to tackle GHG emissions from ships (the Energy Efficiency Design Index) is being proposed as an amendment to Annex VI (air pollution) of MARPOL 73/78. Globally opinion is split about the virtue of the measure and about the method that has been chosen for its adoption and, unusually for the IMO, it will be put to the vote (at MEPC62 in July 2011). EU countries are supportive but not all are Parties to MARPOL Annex VI. The six that have not ratified are the Czech Republic, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Malta and Monaco. Iceland is another regional non-ratifier. Seas At Risk, working with partners in the Clean Shipping Coalition are lobbying the six to ratify before the vote in July 2011.
Entry into Force of IMO Conventions
A global negotiating forum including “flags of convenience” (with very large fleets) often results in entry-into-force provisions that require not just a certain number of national ratifications but that contracting parties represent a sizeable proportion of the world fleet. This has dramatically slowed down the entry-into-force of IMO conventions. Fortunately the European Union now contains a number of substantial flag-States, and this puts it in a position to speed up the entry-into-force of some IMO conventions. In the case of both the HNS Convention (1996) and the Ballast Water Management Convention (2004) entry-into-force appears to be within the control of EU states (see below).
HNS Convention 1996
The Hazardous & Noxious Substances (HNS) Convention will make it possible for compensation to be paid out to the victims of accidents involving HNS, such as chemicals. The HNS Convention was adopted in 1996 and will enter into force 18 months after ratification by 12 states, four of which must have fleets of at least two million gross tonnes (gt), representing individuals receiving at least 40 million tonnes of HNS-type cargo. As of 28th February 2011 fourteen states had ratified with three meeting the 2 million gt qualification. The fourteen states include just four from the EU: Cyprus, Hungary, Lithuania and Slovenia. Ratification by just one of the larger EU flag-States would allow the number of states and vessel tonnage requirements to be met. Data on the quantities of HNS cargo received is not available (this should be provided by contracting parties), but it seems likely that ratification by a single EU state would allow this requirement to be met and the convention to enter into force. More information is available from the IMO's HNS Convention web page (click below).
HNS Convention web page |
Ballast Water Management Convention 2004
The Ballast Water Management (BWM) Convention is designed to protect the marine environment from the introduction via ships ballast water of non-native (alien) species. The introduction of non-native species is one of the top five threats to biological diversity. The BWM Convention was adopted in 2004 and will enter into force 12 months after ratification by 30 states, representing at least 35% of world merchant shipping tonnage. As of 28th February 2011 twenty seven states representing 25.32% of world tonnage had ratified. The 27 states include just four from the EU: Spain, France, The Netherlands and Sweden, although Norway has also ratified. Ratification by the remaining EU states with the largest fleets would result in both the number of states and tonnage requirements being met and this instrument entering into force. More information can be found on the IMO's BWM Convention web page (click below).
BWM Convention web page |
Up-to-date information on the status of ratification of conventions
Summary of convention ratifications showing total tonnage (updated monthly).
Summary of conventions |
Full details of convention ratification status (updated monthly).
Convention status by country |
Status of ratification of all IMO instruments on 28-2-11 (pdf)
All conventions at 28-2-11 |