Once the lifecycle of a ship reaches its final stage, it is sent for shipbreaking where all the hazardous materials used in its construction are exposed putting human life and the environment in danger. When dismantling a vessel (ship) several onboard hazardous materials are recovered such as asbestos, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), glass fiber, solid foam, and waste oil can incur severe negative implications on the environment and human health. Long-term exposure to heavy metals like mercury, and lead, usually found in paints and batteries can cause neurological damage in workers.
As the awareness regarding the harmful impact of onboard hazardous material grew, several initiatives were taken in response to safety and environmental concerns. These initiatives sought to regulate the inventory and management of hazardous materials throughout the lifecycle of a ship, in particular the Hong Kong Convention and the EU Ship Recycling Regulation (EU SRR). These regulations ensure that onboard hazardous materials do not contaminate the environment or cause harm to human life. One such regulation introduced IHM or Inventory of Hazardous Material which is a document containing all the details about the material involved in the construction of any ship.
During the year 2009, in International Maritime Organization (IMO) adopted the ‘Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships’ at a diplomatic conference in Hong Kong (the Convention). The convention was held with an agenda to “prevent, reduce, minimize and, to the extent practicable, eliminate accidents, injuries and other adverse effects on human health and the environment caused by ship recycling, and enhance ship safety, protection of human health and the environment throughout a ship’s operating life.”
The year 2013, witnessed the implementation of EU Ship Recycling Regulation No 1257/2013 which addressed the issue and made it mandatory for ship owners to maintain an inventory of hazardous materials recovered from the shipbreaking. As per Chapter 2, regulation 5 of the Convention and Article 5 of the EU SRR set out the requirements for every ship under the IMO and EU flag to carry and maintain an Inventory of Hazardous Materials (IHM) specifying the location and quantities of each material, verified by the relevant administration or authority.
Also known as the green passport of ships, the IHM covers the full details of a ship right from construction up to the scrapping and recycling at the end of the ship’s operating life. The IHM is specific to each ship and covers the whole life of a ship.
As per the IMO guidelines, there are two main IHM certificates required for IHM compliance. These two certificates are The International Certificate on Inventory of Hazardous Materials and an International Ready for Recycling Certificate. If a ship is found that does not possess both certificates, an inspection is supposed to be carried out under IMO guidelines. The process of acquiring IHM certification can be summed up in the following three steps:
IHM preparation: In the first step, the agreement for the IHM preparation is signed, followed by an onboard inspection. After this, the IHM and the report are prepared and submitted to the owner.
RO approval: The agreement for IHM approval is signed and related documents are reviewed. After adding the comments if any, the approval letter is submitted to the ship owner.
IHM initial survey: The last step is covered by onboard verification of the IHM, catering to a specific checklist. The verification may take a few hours, after which if everything complies with the IHM compliance is issued in the name of the shipowner, for a maximum time of 5 years with the main class renewal date.
IHM provides the full details of onboard hazardous materials that can be recovered from shipbreaking. Besides saving time and effort in identifying all the material, a directory such as IHM is elemental in saving time and helps prepare to tackle the recoverable hazardous materials. Besides, being an obligation the IHM allows to control of hazardous materials by detailing the types, quantities, and locations of such materials onboard each vessel. The list of reasons that define how IHM is useful in ship recycling is given below:
The IHM is crucial for identifying specific hazardous materials onboard ships that represent a potential risk to people or the environment, such as asbestos and ozone-depleting substances. With the help of IHM, we can keep a record of hazardous materials used in the ship’s construction, allowing us to protect shipbreaking workers and prevent environmental pollution. IHM is not only critical for saving the environment and workers but also helpful in the ship recycling process.