The Dutch government has agreed to a bill to implement an international convention on the carriage of hazardous and noxious substances by sea (HNS Convention). This brings the establishment of an international damage fund for major maritime accidents involving hazardous substances a step closer.

Currently, shipowners transporting such substances by sea already have to be insured for accidents. But in a very large accident, the maximum insurance cover may be insufficient to compensate all damages and to compensate victims.

The Hazardous and Noxious Substances (HNS) Convention should change this, by creating an international fund from which damage can be compensated if it exceeds what a shipowner is insured for. A maximum of about EUR 300 million in damages can be compensated from the fund.

Also read: TT Club: X-Press Pearl fire shows hazardous cargoes need to be handled better

Twelve countries have to sign convention

For the convention to enter into force, at least twelve of the countries that have signed it, must also have enshrined it in national law. Currently, six countries have done so. The Netherlands will ratify the treaty jointly with Belgium and Germany. France is also busy preparing for ratification. It is expected that soon enough countries will follow to bring the treaty into force.

Besides setting up a damage fund, the convention also requires shipowners to take out separate insurance for HNS substances. Currently, general insurance for marine accidents is sufficient.

Companies and industry to fill fund

The international fund is to be filled by companies and industry receiving HNS substances. They will have to pay contributions only when there has been an accident involving HNS substances that exceeds the shipowner’s insurance.

Also read: IMO urges states to ratify compensation regime for hazardous cargoes