In the shipping industry, several hazardous materials for several purposes are regularly handled. The likelihood of crew members, the ship as well as the environment getting exposed to hazardous materials presents a large element of risk. To minimise/avoid undue risk, it is advisable for shipowners to have an up-to-date Inventory of Hazardous Materials (IHM). 

The creation of an Inventory of Hazardous Materials is one of many fundamental practices to ensure the safety and sustainability of the global shipping industry. 

What are Hazardous Materials? 

The definition of a hazardous material is a substance which is capable of causing health and/or environmental hazard. An example of an extremely hazardous material commonly found on ships is asbestos, inhalation of which has fatal effects. 

What is the Inventory of Hazardous Materials (IHM)? 

The IHM refers to a structured system required for a vessel’s compliance with EU SRR and Hong Kong Convention (HKC) standards detailing the control of hazardous materials present onboard a ship. The presence of such an inventory ensures that ship owners are updated with the hazardous materials onboard their vessels.

As part of the Inventory of Hazardous Materials, ship owners must list out all the details of the materials- the what, how much and where. With the type, amount and position of hazardous materials listed out, the risk of undue exposure is nullified. There are several hidden hazards onboard vessels- all of these must be quantified as part of this inventory. 

Importance of Inventory of Hazardous Materials (IHM) 

A well-detailed IHM has several advantages. These include: 

  • Minimisation of risk 
  • Prevention of unwanted liability
  • Improved safety for crew 
  • Adherence to shipping legislation
  • Demonstrates commitment to safety 
  • Reveals a ship owner’s commitment to environmentally friendly practices 

Inventory of Hazardous Materials (IHM) parts

There are three parts when it comes to the IHM. These are: 

  1. Hazardous materials which form part of the structure of the vessel and its equipment 
  2. Hazardous wastes generated as part of the vessel’s operations 
  3. Hazardous stores 

Process of getting Inventory of Hazardous Materials (IHM) in the maritime industry

IHM compliance is a process that could take up to three months and therefore should be planned for, well in advance. A thorough assessment must be done regarding the hazardous materials present onboard the vessel. In preparation, purchase orders must also be combed through to identify hazardous materials. Following this, suppliers must be sent documents attesting this information. Ship owners can use specialised maritime softwares to ascertain the details required, get access to necessary templates and chart them out in the approved format to secure compliance. 

However, IHM compliance comes with an expiry date. Hence, it is mandatory to maintain it and update it prior to the deadline. Continuous conformity to the certification over the course of a vessel’s operations is the responsibility of a ship owner.  

The Inventory of Hazardous Materials (IHM) is a mandatory requirement in all ships for compliance. In the absence of adherence to IHM over the course of its operational lifetime, the owners of the ship may be held liable.