European Commission Suggests Temporary "Harmonised Approach" Limited To 6 Months, In Response To Calls For EU SRR IHM Deadline Extension

22 October 2020

In a widely anticipated move, the European Commission (EC) is suggesting a temporary "Harmonised Approach" limited to 6 months. Jon Chaplin, Marine Business Development Manager provides his insight into how to achieve compliance.


The EC notice cites “industry stakeholders” who claim that “several thousand ships” are unlikely to be able to meet the deadline due in part to difficulties in surveying ships and producing their Inventory of Hazardous Materials (IHM) due to Europe wide lockdown measures and travel restrictions caused by the COVID-19 Pandemic. As a result, the EC has decided to establish some “common guidelines” in order to ensure a “harmonised approach towards enforcement by the EU port States authorities during ship inspections as of 1 January 2021.”

EU port States authorities are likely to be confronted with two specific Covid-19 related scenarios that, says the EC, “may require a more harmonised approach during inspections...” and the suggestion is to apply this harmonised approach temporarily for a limited period of 6 months with a recommendation to do so until 30th June 2021.


What scenarios can the EC foresee?

Scenario 1

1. Where a vessel arrives at an EU port after 31 December 2020 without a valid IHM and/or accompanying certificate and the shipowner/master claims that this non-compliance is due to the Covid- 19 situation. 

In all such cases, the EC states there is a burden of proof on the owner/master, to provide evidence that all possible measures were taken to undertake the work and get the certification required. Such evidence of compliance efforts may include e.g. “a service contract for sampling or a survey.”

Additionally, it may also include “a justification as to why it was not possible to obtain a semi-completed IHM and associated certificate” including proof that it had been impossible “to comply with other elements of the certification than the on-board inspection.”

PSC inspectors will then decide whether to accept the evidence presented on a case-by-case basis using their “professional judgement”.

If the inspector decides to accept the evidence, then for the Inventory Certificate or Statement of Compliance, the inspector should specify that “the documents should be completed and approved within 4 months after the inspection”. In addition, a warning should be given to the vessel. The inspection result and warning should be registered in the ship recycling module of THETIS – EU.

Scenario 2

2. Involves vessels with a semi-completed IHM that does not contain on-board sampling. 

In this case the vessel may call at an EU port or anchorage after 31 December 2020 with a certified IHM prepared remotely i.e. without any on-board sampling due to restrictions resulting from the pandemic.  The EC notice states “In all such cases where a certificate is based on an IHM without the on-board sampling element, the IHM should in principle not be acceptable as it is not complete.”

However, responding to the situation the EC concedes that “considering that since March 2020 there has been little or no opportunity for surveyors to go on-board ships and undertake these surveys, such a remote survey/sampling could be exceptionally accepted, if there is evidence that the flag State has agreed to this”. 

In such cases, there would also have to be “documented plans and arrangements kept on-board the ship indicating when it will be feasible for qualified samplers to complete the IHM...” 

As with scenario 1, it is then for “the inspector to decide whether this evidence is acceptable on a case-by-case basis depending on the specific circumstances of the vessel in question and using his professional judgement”. 

“If the inspector does accept the evidence provided by the owner/master, then for the Inventory Certificate or Statement of Compliance the inspector should specify that the IHM should be completed and approved within 4 months after the inspection. In addition, a warning should be given to the vessel and the inspection result and warning should be registered in the ship recycling module of THETIS – EU.”


What should shipowners do now?

COVID-19 related travel restrictions have hindered progress for both IHM survey suppliers and shipowners. For owners who have yet to start the process of IHM inspection and certification, it now makes sense to engage with an IHM service provider and protect yourself and your vessels from non-compliance further down the line..

Shipowners should be proactive and well prepared in order to remain compliant and avoid fines, detentions and charter breaches. The key to obtaining certification within the new extended deadline whilst the pandemic continues to affect travel restrictions for the foreseeable, owners must work with competent, trained and adequately resourced IHM specialists.


What is the Inventory of Hazardous Materials (IHM)?

In 2009 the Inventory of Hazardous Materials (IHM) regulations were introduced as part of the Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships. The Convention was developed with input from the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and its members, addressing concerns about the standards of scrapping on the beaches in South Asia.

The Hong Kong Convention has yet to enter into force, however, from December 31, 2020, to be compliant with the European Union Ship Recycling Regulation (EU SRR) any ship classed as 500GT or over entering into EU ports, regardless of flag,  will be required to carry a valid and certified Inventory of Hazardous Materials (IHM). However, as described above, the European Commission (EC) has given notice that a 6-month extension to the IHM deadline of 31 December 2020 may be granted in certain circumstances.

Aimed to ensure the safety of all those who could potentially be exposed to materials that are classed as hazardous to health (including workers in shipyards, on the ships and at recycling yards), the IHM is an authoritative guide to the hazardous materials on board. 


What is a valid and certified IHM certificate?

Once the IHM report is completed and delivered to a Recognised Organisation, a valid and certified IHM certificate is issued by, in most cases, the Classification Society or the Ship Registry. A valid certificate will only be issued after the successful completion of the IHM survey. The IHM certificate will be valid for 5 years from the issue date. After this date, shipowners are required to procure a new IHM certificate with a renewal IHM survey, ensuring all records and hazardous materials listed are correct and up to date.

The IHM survey must be conducted by a competent supplier and the sample analysis and reports should be delivered by a qualified and accredited supplier. This ensures your IHM is accurate and avoids unnecessary potential risks to both individuals and the environment.


How can Lucion Marine help me navigate the latest changes?

With internationally recognised ISO 17025 accredited laboratories, and a specialist team of hazardous materials surveyors, analysts, and consultants strategically located across the globe, Lucion Marine delivers trusted consultancy, surveying, testing and management for hazardous material management to fleets throughout the world. 

Servicing the global marine industry since 2002, Lucion has completed in excess of 600 IHMs on a wide variety of vessels including, passenger cruise vessels, tankers, container vessels, bulk carriers, FPSOs, ferries, PSVs, Superyachts, and offshore platforms. From hazardous material surveying, identification and management to asset recycling, dismantling and disposal consultancy, Lucion assists clients in all aspects of compliance with SOLAS, the Hong Kong Convention and the EU Ship Recycling Regulations. 

Lucion are approved by the following IACS Classification Societies:

  • Lloyds Register (LR)
  • Bureau Veritas (BV)
  • American Bureau of Shipping (ABS)


Contact Jon Chaplin to discuss your IHM project and compliance requirements: 


Mobile: +44 (0)7458021170

Telephone: +44 (0)345 5040 303

To read the European Commission's announcement please click here: Commission Notice


Inventory of Hazardous Materials Guide

The Inventory of Hazardous Materials (IHM) is a structured system to control hazardous materials onboard ships and achieve compliance with the EU Ship Recycling Regulation (EU SRR) and Hong Kong Convention (HKC) for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships. Read Lucion Marine clients' most frequently asked questions and answers.

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