The HNS Convention was adopted by the International Maritime Organization in 1996 after two decades' negotiations. It created new compensation arrangements for chemical accidents at sea, with liability being shared between shipowners and chemical importers (ENDS Report 256, pp 44 ).
Progress towards entry into force of the Convention has been slow. Only four countries - Angola, Morocco, the Russian Federation and Tonga - have ratified it so far, and the treaty will not take effect until 12 states have ratified and various other criteria are met.
However, entry into force drew closer in 2002 following an EU agreement that Member States should ratify the treaty by June 2006.
The first stage of a two-part consultation on UK ratification was launched by the Department for Transport last December. A second consultation, containing draft regulations, was promised for "early 2004", with ratification following in the summer.
There has already been some slippage in that timetable, though this appears to be of no great consequence. According to Mr Jamieson, the second consultation will now be held "early this summer", with ratification expected before the end of the year.