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Hong Kong and Dubai: Air emission standards

Hong Kong

In recent years there has been more focus on air borne pollution in Hong Kong and in an effort to control the emission of dark smoke from vessels, Hong Kong has recently amended its legislation.

As per section 50 of the Shipping and Port Control Ordinance (Cap 313) and Section 51 of the Merchant Shipping (Local Vessels) Ordinance (Cap. 548), it is now an offence for any vessel in Hong Kong waters to emit dark smoke for 3 minutes or more continuously at any one time. These legislative changes were gazetted on 18 July 2014 and came into effect immediately.

The Shipping and Port Control Ordinance regulates dark smoke emission from ocean-going vessels, whereas the Merchant Shipping (Local Vessels) Ordinance applies to local vessels.

Dark smoke is defined as smoke which is “dark as or darker than shade 2 on the Ringelmann chart”. The Ringelmann chart has 5 shades ranging from 0 (clear) to 5 (black). The darker the smoke, the more polluting it is.

Sample of the Ringelmann Chart - to be used for reference only, and not as a device for dark smoke measurement Source: Hong Kong Marine Department Notice No. 92 of 2014

Sample of the Ringelmann Chart – to be used for reference only, and not as a device for dark smoke measurement
Source: Hong Kong Marine Department Notice No. 92 of 2014

A vessel found to be in contravention is liable to a fine of HK 25,000 on first conviction and a fine of HK 50,000 for any subsequent conviction. In the case of local vessels, the fines are set at HK 10,000 on first conviction and HK 25,000 for any subsequent conviction. The owner of the vessel, his agent and the master are each deemed to have committed the offence and thus all are required to exercise due diligence to maintain the engine and fuel system on-board in a good condition.

While Hong Kong can record up to 400,000 vessel movements a year, the legislation confers power on authorized agents to direct local vessels to be checked if they have reasonable grounds to suspect the vessel is in contravention.


The government of Dubai issued a statement on 2 July 2014 calling all vessels to ensure strict compliance with its rules on air emissions while in port. All vessels calling DP World/ PCFC ports in Dubai are required to comply with the local PCFC-EHS Ports and Maritime Regulations in addition to the IMO Marpol Annex VI Regulations in an effort to curb air pollution in the area.

The statement issued advises vessels to refrain from unsafe practices causing air pollution such as:

· Ships emitting black/grey exhaust smoke
· Incineration during port stay
· Using fuel oil not in line with Marpol Annex VI requirements

Any contravention to these requirements may result in the imposition of appropriate sanctions including fines.

In addition, all vessels are reminded to maintain their engines and other equipment in good conditions so as to prevent the possibility of environmental pollution. All vessels are also reminded to ensure their IAPP (International Air Pollution Prevention) certificate is valid in all aspects.

Find more information on the IMO Marpol Annex VI Regulations here.

For further information, members are asked to contact the Association:

Nikita Lulla
Claims Assistant, Skuld Hong Kong

Christian Ott
Vice President Head of Claims, Skuld Singapore Branch
Loss Prevention and Recurring Claims Team Leader

Hong Kong pulls plug on on-shore power supply for cruise ships

Ernest Kao

Officials say plan to power cruise ships from land too costly as disappointed green groups insist system would have reduced emissions

Plans for plug-in power at the Kai Tak terminal have been temporarily shelved as it would be a costly system few cruise liners around the world could or would use, environmental authorities say.

The announcement drew disappointment from the city’s green groups who believe building on-shore power recharging facilities can help reduce emissions and ultimately save lives.

But while plugging into electric power on land, rather than recharging from the vessel’s running engines, could “eliminate” ship emissions at berth, the Environmental Protection Department said such facilities would cause the two-berth terminal to be “significantly underutilised”.

Out of the 60 cruise terminals in the Asia Pacific, only five ports were considering on-shore power supply (OPS) in the coming five to 10 years, the department said, in a paper that is to be discussed at the Legislative Council environmental affairs panel next week.

The findings were based on a study by the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department in 2013 on the feasibility of installing on-shore power at Kai Tak.

Installing such a system would take 60 months to prepare, HK$315 million to build and cost up to HK$14 million per year in operating costs, the paper said.

The department also found that only 35 international cruise ships would be equipped with on-shore power systems by the end of this year – about 16 per cent of all international cruise ships. Most of those vessels also plied North American rather than Asian routes, where there was at least seven terminals equipped with plug-in facilities.

“The high cost outlay coupled with low interest of cruise liners in equipping their vessels with OPS, are not conducive to the installation of OPS systems,” the department said.

“The survey findings suggest that setting up OPS is not a priority task among cruise ports in the Asia Pacific region and this will likely remain so in the foreseeable future.”

The report said most cruise ships believe it would be more cost-effective to switch to cleaner fuel at berth. A mandate requiring ocean-going vessels to switch to lower sulphur fuels at berth will come into effect in July.

But Clean Air Network disagreed with the findings saying Hong Kong should have “seized the opportunity” to be a front runner in Asia for OPS.

“The government tends to calculate cost benefits without considering external social costs,” said Clean Air Network chief executive Kwong Sum-yin. “The building of on-shore power facilities is certainly worthwhile in order to protect public health.”

Citing the Hedley Environmental Index, the group calculated that 42 deaths and HK$523 million could be saved a year from harmful cruise ship air pollution.

Friends of the Earth said the decision reflected a “planning mistake” since both location and design had been factored very early on.

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying had committed the government to develop OPS at Kai Tak in his 2013 policy address.

“The government spends millions in public funds on a consultancy report, but now they say the plan as not feasible in terms of cost-effectiveness,” the group said.

It urged the government to look into developing on-shore power at the Kwai Chung container port instead, which was an even bigger hotbed of shipping emissions.

Source URL (modified on May 28th 2015, 5:55am):

Trash-tracking app could help keep Hong Kong waterways clean

Hikers and beachgoers will be able to send photos to database to help clean-up campaigns

A new “trash-reporting app” will reduce plastic pollution in waterways and eventually the sea by harnessing the power of the public to provide information on its location, according to the app’s developer.

Global Alert is billed as an online mapping tool that allows users – particularly hikers and beachgoers – to report, rate and map the locations of rubbish blackspots and alert the community to take swift action.

Its main focus would be on floating plastic trash, which is produced on land but tends to accumulate in rivers, lakes and coastlines, said Douglas Woodring, co-founder and managing director of the Ocean Recovery Alliance conservation group which developed the app.

“Most trash comes via rivers and waterways before ending up in the ocean,” he said. “You can think of a river as a blood vessel and the ocean as the heart. The trash is the cholesterol.”

Users could send real-time data from their smartphones, including photographs, to a central database, he said. The information would allow volunteer beach and shoreline clean-up crews as well as government departments to better decide where to conduct clean-ups or deploy catchment devices, before the trash moved further downstream.

“It will make it easier to locate and catch this trash before it gets into the sea, where it will be harder to clean up,” Woodring said.

The Environmental Protection Department estimates that up to a quarter of marine refuse found in local coastal areas are “plastic pieces”.

While the amount of marine refuse collected from public beaches and in the open sea has been decreasing, rubbish found near the shore and in marine parks or reserves has been going up, according to government statistics.

“If I’m hiking somewhere and I see trash on a remote beach, I can report it … With this app, you can be effective,” he said.

The alliance, a registered Hong Kong charity, developed the app with funding and endorsement from the World Bank’s Global Partnership for Oceans. It is set to be rolled out soon in more than 20 countries.

Source URL (modified on Apr 18th 2015, 1:03am):

Most Hong Kong marine waste comes from local sources – not mainland China, government says

Less than 5 per cent of Hong Kong’s marine refuse comes from mainland China, according to a government study on shoreline and floating rubbish. However, the amount of mainland refuse may be underestimated because it is based on labels which contain simplified Chinese characters, which are used on the mainland.

“It is not true as some people think that most of the refuse comes from other places,” said Amy Yuen Wai-yin, an assistant director in the Environmental Protection Department who is responsible for water policy. She was speaking at a press briefing on Friday at which a government report on the issue was released.

“Even in the eastern part of Hong Kong [where waste from mainland China is usually washed up], non-domestic refuse only accounts for about 10 per cent of the rubbish.”

Explaining why only waste with simplified Chinese character labels was categorised as non-local refuse, Yuen said there was “no scientific means to assess where the refuse comes from” and that the current classification system was “by far the most technically viable way”.

The study was conducted between April 2013 and March last year by an inter-departmental working group, which was set up after millions of tiny plastic pellets spilled from six containers which fell from a ship during the passage of a typhoon in July 2012.

Even in the eastern part of Hong Kong non-domestic refuse only accounts for about 10 per cent of the rubbish

Government official Amy Yuen

The group collected 15,000 tonnes of marine refuse – 70 per cent floating waste and the rest found along Hong Kong’s 1,100 kilometres of coastline. Excluding natural debris, more than 70 per cent was non-biodegradable plastic and foam.

The report says that more than 80 per cent of marine refuse comes from land-based sources, mainly recreational activities along shorelines.

Asked if a growing number of visitors – many from the mainland – using local beaches was a reason for an increase in shoreline rubbish, Yuen said: “If there are more people, more activities, and that’s a fact for Hong Kong, there will likely be [more] rubbish.”

The Green Council and Hong Kong Cleanup, two of the government’s partner groups in shoreline cleaning efforts, both think the increasing number of tourists frequenting beaches could be leading to more marine refuse.

“We did notice more rubbish with simplified Chinese character labels, but we don’t know if it was brought by tourists or drifted downstream [from the mainland],” Yuen said.

The government said public education remained the best option to reduce waste generation since the city’s 1,100km-long shoreline could not be patrolled all the time. More water fountains are planned for beaches to deter people from buying bottled water, but this is not always possible because not all beaches have a fresh water supply.

Source URL (modified on Apr 17th 2015, 4:10pm):

Clean marine fuel a step forward

Activists tend to remember landmark victories in the fight against air pollution. But most people would be surprised to hear that it is 25 years since the government took a policy decision which, according to researchers, made a difference to air quality overnight. That was to impose a cap on the sulphur content of industrial fuel used in factories. The year was 1990. Ever since, sadly, other pollution sources have undermined air quality. But a similar landmark victory may not be far off, according to a think tank that specialises in environmental issues. Simon Ng Ka-wing, chief research officer at Civic Exchange, says this is likely when it becomes mandatory for ocean-going vessels to use low-sulphur marine diesel fuel when berthing in Hong Kong, under a proposed law that activists hope will take effect as early as July. Although ship emissions account for only 18 per cent (CTA: actually 50% SO2 in 2012 !) of sulphur dioxide in the city’s air, they penetrate residential areas easily.

As with the factories in 1990, Ng expects the policy to have a dramatic effect because sulphur emissions will be cut by almost 80 per cent immediately. This is the kind of boost to its environmental credentials the city needs, given the importance of good air quality in attracting the talented people and tourists so important to its economy. The latest data shows that measures such as phasing out dirty diesel vehicles and buses that fail even outdated European emission standards are having a welcome impact. But average concentrations of pollutants remain too high, especially for ozone.

The ultimate goal of tackling marine diesel emissions in Hong Kong is a recognised clean-fuel emissions control area (ECA) for the Pearl River Delta, like those in North America, the Baltic Sea and the North Sea. That would depend on participation of Guangdong ports and support from Beijing in the International Maritime Organisation. Meanwhile, if a mandatory cap were to have the predicted dramatic effect, it should prompt the government to redouble efforts to upgrade local bus and truck fleets to combat roadside air pollution.

Source URL (modified on Mar 26th 2015, 10:06am):


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Hong Kong to mandate OGVs to use compliant fuels while berthing

Hong Kong Government is to bring into effect a new regulation mandating the use of clean fuels by ocean-going vessels (OGVs) while at berth, in order to reduce emissions.

The Air Pollution Control (Ocean Going Vessels) (Fuel at Berth) Regulation will be gazetted this week, the government said.

With this regulation, OGVs will be required to use low-sulphur marine fuel with sulphur content of less than 0.5%, liquefied natural gas, and any other fuels approved by the Director of Environmental Protection.

An Environmental Protection Department spokesman said: “The regulation prohibits OGVs from using any fuel other than compliant fuel while at berth in Hong Kong, except during the first hour after arrival and the last hour before departure.

“If an OGV uses technology that can achieve the same or less emission of sulphur dioxide (SO2) when compared with using low-sulphur marine fuel, the OGV may be exempted from switching to compliant fuel.”

“If an OGV uses technology that can achieve the same or less emission of SO2 [as] low-sulphur marine fuel, the OGV may be exempted.”

The majority of OGVs operate on heavy fuel oil with an average sulphur content of 2.6%, and the estimated SO2 emissions of an OGV at berth is about 40% of the total during its stay in Hong Kong.

This new development is expected to minimise the total emissions of SO2 and respirable suspended particulates by 12% and 6% respectively.

After implementation of this rule, powering an OGV using non-compliant fuel while at berth in Hong Kong will incur a maximum fine of $200,000 and imprisonment for six months.

The government also asked shipmasters and ship owners to record the date and time of fuel switching and keep the relevant records for three years, adding that non-compliance will attract a maximum fine of $50,000 and imprisonment for three months.

Air Pollution Control (Ocean Going Vessels) (Fuel at Berth) Regulation

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Government should rethink blanket incentives for shippers with new regulation due soon

Simon Ng wonders at the need for incentives for shippers to comply with stricter emission standard, when the industry itself is ready for change

In last week’s budget speech, Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah proposed to extend a government incentive scheme to March 2018 that halves the port facilities and light dues charged on ocean-going vessels that switch to low-sulphur fuel while at berth in Hong Kong. The extension is, the government explained, a means to help the shipping industry’s transition to more stringent fuel regulation that is expected to come into effect later this year.

Vessels will be required by law to burn marine fuel with a sulphur content of 0.5 per cent or less, slashing at-berth sulphur dioxide and particulate emissions by up to 80 per cent.

Given the maritime industry’s contribution to Hong Kong’s economy, the proposal is a calculated attempt to prevent cost-conscious ship operators from going to Shenzhen and other neighbouring ports where regulation on marine fuel quality is lacking. Despite assurances from major shipping lines that they have no plans to bypass Hong Kong, the government is taking no chances.

It is debatable whether tighter environmental regulations will drive ships away. The government’s concerns could be fuelled by Hong Kong’s diminishing competitive advantage over neighbouring ports. That said, to think that introducing higher environmental standards will inevitably make Hong Kong’s port less competitive is missing the bigger picture.

There is growing evidence that the maritime sector has become more responsive in recent years to the call for better environmental performance. For example, Koji Sekimizu, secretary general of the International Maritime Organisation, put forward in 2012 the concept of a sustainable maritime transport system. This was a wake-up call at the highest level that, despite its significant contribution to trade and economic growth, the sector has a major responsibility to reduce its environmental footprint.

Around the world, national, regional and local governments are working tirelessly together with the industry for innovative solutions – technical, financial and regulatory – to improve the energy efficiency of ships, and to reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Here in Hong Kong, the shipping industry voluntarily initiated the Fair Winds Charter in 2011. We are expecting ship emission control regulation this year, and are pushing for the same across the region. The tide has turned.

The government’s generosity in light of impending regulation has therefore raised a few eyebrows. Questions have been asked as to why it is planning to give away public money to polluters, who are only months away from complying with regulation with or without government incentives.

If the government insists on doling out the money, the scheme would only make sense with different incentives. Vessels meeting the regulation requirements should get a standard rebate, whereas carriers willing and ready to take the next step, such as burning fuel with 0.1 per cent sulphur content, should be rewarded with a higher rebate. This way, all industry players would receive some financial support from the government for switching fuel, the front runners would be motivated to reach for a higher standard, and Hong Kong as a whole would benefit from a green maritime sector in the long run.

Simon Ng is chief research officer at Civic Exchange
Source URL (modified on Mar 5th 2015, 12:02pm):

The Demise of the Fair Winds Charter

Hong Kong’s voluntary Fair Winds Charter aimed at reducing air emissions in port officially expired at the end of the year. It is unlikely to be renewed.

Regulations mandating emission control measures in port, and thus negating the need for the Charter, are late, but still eagerly anticipated. For Arthur Bowring, managing director of the Hong Kong Shipowners Association (HKSA), they will create a fair competitive environment that doesn’t penalize shipowners making an effort to reduce SOx emissions.

The legislation for Hong Kong was supposed to be ready for January 1,” says Bowring. “The container industry especially is highly competitive, and if you’ve got carriers paying $2 million more each year for the pleasure of switching fuel, they’re not going to last long in business. So it’s important to maintain a level playing field between the carriers in Hong Kong. That’s why we want the legislation, but we do also want the initiative to spread up into the rest of the Pearl River delta to keep the playing field level for Hong Kong as a port.”

The Charter, reaffirmed for another year in February 2014, involves many of Hong Kong’s leading carriers and cruise liners and was initially brought about through the leadership of OOCL and Maersk. It is jointly sponsored by the HKSA and the Hong Kong Liner Shipping Association.

“The Hong Kong Shipowners Association and the Hong Kong Liner Shipping Association have for many years been deeply involved in the reduction of emissions from shipping, both in global negotiations and in local voluntary efforts. Locally, the Fair Winds Charter was developed by the industry in 2010, taking effect from 2011, as the world’s only truly voluntary scheme to reduce shipping emissions at berth and at anchor.”

In 2012, the charter was partially supported by the government with a three-year incentive scheme that means owners can claim around 40 percent of the cost of switching fuel.

Over time the shipping lines signed up to the charter have changed. “Some of the original members are no longer doing it because it’s made them too uncompetitive. They are waiting for the legislation,” says Bowring.

However, there have been some new companies coming in and some taking advantage of the arrangement without publically supporting the charter. “There is a fair amount of reluctance to be identified publically supporting the voluntary emissions cut. One reason for that, we believe, is because some carriers are concerned that if they are shown publically to be supporting Hong Kong, then other places might well demand they do the same thing, and that could really affect their bottom line tremendously.”

An infographic on the back page of the South China Morning Post at the end of last year sparked renewed focus on the shipping industry’s air emissions. Titled “A Heavy Toll” the infographic showed that approximately 50 percent of Hong Kong’s SOx emissions, 32 percent of NOx emissions and 37 percent of particulate matter came from the marine industry in 2012. The statistics may give the impression that the shipping industry is not aware of the effect of emissions on human health and is not doing anything to reduce them. This is not the case, Bowring says.

The industry fully supports, and is working with, the government in the development of the new regulation, he says. He cites statistics gathered last year that indicate that while only 13 percent of carriers were switching fuel, sulfur emissions around the port area were reduced by 8 percent.

In October last year, nearby Shenzhen in mainland China stated its intention to follow Hong Kong’s voluntary efforts with an incentive scheme, and to work with Hong Kong towards an application to the IMO by 2018 to create an emission control area for the Pearl River Delta.

China is home to seven of the world’s busiest container terminals, and Shenzhen became the third largest container port in the world in 2013. Most of the ocean-going vessels calling at Shenzhen burn heavy fuel oil. It is estimated that about 66 per cent of Shenzhen’s sulfur dioxide emissions, 14 per cent of nitrogen oxide, 6 per cent of fine particulates come from port and ship sources.

Shenzhen is planning to take the Hong Kong model a step further. It will refund 100 percent of the extra fuel costs if 0.1 percent or less sulfur fuel is burnt and 75 percent if it is less than 0.5 percent. However, the government is still developing the necessary framework to achieve these incentives.

It also plans to promote the use of shoreside power. Unlike Hong Kong, this can be fairly easily achieved as a lot of the terminals are relatively new, and many have been set up with cold ironing facilities.

There is some talk of making shoreside power available in Hong Kong too.

“Hong Kong’s efforts to reduce emissions from shipping are well recognized and appreciated by Beijing, and we understand that Shanghai is considering adopting emission control incentives, initially based on Hong Kong’s voluntary scheme, for the Yangtze River Delta,” says Bowring, but he believes countries further afield are also watching Hong Kong with interest.

He sees a significant difference between the regulations being developed in Hong Kong and those in, for example, Europe. In Europe, there is a fine attached to not switching to low sulfur fuels in designated areas. It’s not a particularly heavy fine, says Bowring, and may not provide a strong financial incentive for trying to avoid the system.

In contrast, the new regulations being developed for Hong Kong make deliberate non-compliance a criminal act for both the carrier and the ship’s master. A convicted master could face six months in jail and a $200,000 fine.

“We think it is a very effective sanction, and it is one that Europe is quite interested in,” says Bowring.

Meanwhile, the voluntary Charter continues on a business-as-usual basis, until the legislation is implemented. This is anticipated to be in the next six months.

“Shipping carries more than 90 per cent of world trade and, on a ton-km basis, is the most efficient and environmentally friendly form of transport. It is our intention to continue to reduce the environmental footprint of this essential industry sector,” says Bowring.

The opinions expressed herein are the author’s and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.