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Editorial: Global sulphur cap in 2020

It is now finally settled that the global cap of 0.5 per cent for the sulphur content of the fuel oil used by ships will apply from 1 January 2020. This is a significant reduction from the current cap of 3.5 per cent and it will cut shipping SO2 emissions by nearly 80 per cent, or around 9 million tonnes per year, and prevent more than 100,000 annual premature deaths.

Discussions about restricting air pollution from international shipping started towards the end of the eighties within the International Maritime Organization (IMO), a UN body, and agreement was reached in 1997 on an air pollution annex to its MARPOL Convention. Unfortunately, this turned out to be a very feeble document with very timid requirements.

After several more years of talks but very little action, the IMO in 2008 finally agreed and unanimously adopted sulphur standards that would significantly reduce the well-documented adverse health and environmental impacts of shipping. However, a main drawback was that the new global 0.5 per cent sulphur cap was to be implemented only 12 years later, by 2020. Moreover, due to industry pressure, it was stated that the 2020 implementation date could be postponed, subject to availability of compliant fuel.

Usually industry favours international agreements, especially when it comes to sectors of a global nature, such as shipping and aviation. This is due partly to a perceived need for harmonisation, but also because it normally takes decades to settle such agreements and the standards arrived at are often set at very low levels of ambition.

With the stricter global sulphur cap now coming into force in 2020 – more than 30 years after the issue was first raised in the IMO – it is hoped that both shipping and the oil industry will embrace the IMO standards and focus their attention on establishing effective systems for compliance monitoring and enforcement.

The nature of shipping as an international business has been used as an excuse or manoeuvre to delay environmental action for much too long and it is not acceptable for the shipping industry to keep on transferring the cost of its pollution to society at large.

It must not be forgotten that the measures agreed so far in IMO for reducing emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) are totally inadequate and will not result in any significant reductions in total ship NOx emissions even within the next 10–15 years. Every effort must therefore be made to markedly strengthen the weak NOx emission standards, and to make them applicable to both existing and new ships.

To ensure an organised gradual phase-in of lower-sulphur fuels, to encourage the use of the best environmental techniques, and to speed up the introduction of clean and renewable fuels, the IMO standards should be complemented by economic instruments, such as emission charges.

In addition, the EU and its member states should follow the example of the United States and Canada and designate all sea areas around Europe as “full” Emission Control Areas, i.e. covering all the major air pollutants (sulphur, particulate matter and nitrogen oxides).

Shipping is also a growing source of greenhouse gases, but there is so far no agreement on capping the industry’s CO2 emissions. An IMO meeting in October agreed only to monitor ship CO2 emissions, and to delay until at least 2023 any agreement on a CO2 reduction target. A proposed review of ship energy efficiency targets was also delayed.

It should be obvious that the longer the shipping industry delays climate measures, the steeper the emission cuts will have to be to keep within the world’s rapidly shrinking carbon budget.

Christer Ågren

IMO confirms 2020 date

Implementing the global rule to restrict the sulphur content in marine fuel oil to 0.5 per cent will cut shipping SO2 emissions by nearly 80 per cent and prevent more than 100,000 annual premature deaths.

A decision to introduce a global 0.5 per cent cap on the content of sulphur in marine fuel by 2020 was originally agreed by the United Nations International Maritime Organization (IMO) back in 2008. At the same time, it was also agreed that a review should be undertaken by 2018 in order to assess whether sufficient compliant fuel oil would be available to meet the 2020 date. If not, the date might be deferred to 2025. That review was completed this summer, and concluded that sufficient compliant fuel oil would be available to meet the fuel oil requirements by 1 January 2020.

The IMO’s fuel oil availability assessment study1 was submitted to its Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC), and discussed at its 70th session held in London on 24–28 October.

The current global sulphur limit for marine heavy fuel oil (HFO) is set at 3.5 per cent, which is 3,500 times higher than the limit for fuel used in cars and trucks in the EU. As a result, shipping is one of the world’s biggest emitters of sulphur dioxide (SO2), an air pollutant that causes premature deaths from lung cancer and heart and respiratory diseases as well as acidification of sensitive natural ecosystems.

According to the third IMO greenhouse gas study from July 2014, annual emissions of SO2 from international shipping amount to approximately 10.6 million tonnes, or approximately 12 per cent of global SO2 emissions from anthropogenic sources. Moreover, international shipping emits some 18.6 million tonnes of nitrogen oxides (NOx), equal to 13 per cent of global anthropogenic NOx emissions.

Although the maximum allowed sulphur content is set at 3.5 per cent, the IMO’s sulphur monitoring scheme shows that global average sulphur content for marine HFO over the last few years has actually been around 2.5 per cent. This means that in practice the new 0.5 per cent limit will cut SO2 emissions from ships running on HFO by about 80 per cent.

The effects of introducing the 0.5 per cent sulphur cap in 2020 rather than delaying it to 2025 were analysed by a group of scientists from the United States and Finland and presented in another report2 submitted to the MEPC. Some of the key findings of this study were that:

  • Annual SO2 emissions will be cut by 8.5–9 million tonnes between 2020 and 2025, approximately a 77 per cent reduction in overall global SO2 emissions from international shipping.
  • Emissions of primary particulate matter (PM) will come down by 0.76–0.81 million tonnes per year, which equals a 50 per cent reduction.
  • The lowered emissions will lead to significant reductions in exposure to harmful air pollutants, especially in populated coastal areas, preventing more than 100,000 premature deaths per year. It is estimated that over the five-year period a total of 570,000 premature deaths will be avoided.
  • More than 90 per cent of these health benefits will take place in the Asia-Pacific region, Africa and Latin America. (Because the sea areas around Europe and North America already have stricter fuel sulphur standards, they will receive only relatively small additional health benefits from the global cap.)

The decision by the IMO to confirm 2020 as the implementation date for the 0.5 per cent global sulphur cap was taken by consensus, but it was certainly not uncontroversial. For example, oil industry associations led by IPIECA and shipping companies represented by BIMCO had sponsored the production of a separate fuel availability study, which was also submitted to the MEPC.

The official IMO report analysed three different demand scenarios – a base case as well as a low (-12%) and a high (+14%) demand case – and found that in all scenarios the refinery sector will be able to supply sufficient quantities of low-sulphur fuel from 2020 to meet the demand. On the other hand, while the report sponsored by industry acknowledged that the refining industry could meet the fuel volumes needed by 2020, it also stated that sticking to 2020 would “lead to severe strains on global oil markets” and concluded that “a full-on switch to the global sulphur standard in January 2020 does not look workable.”

Apart from the very significant health and environmental benefits of the sulphur emission reductions, the fact that in 2012 the European Union had already established a 0.5 per cent sulphur limit to apply from 2020 in its territorial seas, exclusive economic zones and pollution control zones is likely to have had quite some impact on the outcome of the debate. This encouraged EU countries to also argue in favour of 2020 as the implementation date for the global cap, and they were supported by among others the United States and Japan.

Commenting on the outcome, Bill Hemmings, shipping director at Transport & Environment, said: “This is a landmark decision and we are very pleased that the world has bitten the bullet and is now tackling poisonous sulphuric fuel in 2020. This decision reduces the contribution of shipping to the world’s air pollution impact from about 5 per cent down to 1.5 per cent and will save millions of lives in the coming decades. Now the focus should shift towards implementing this decision, which is a big issue since it’s not yet clear who should police ships on the high seas, and how.”

IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim also welcomed the decision. “The reductions in SO2 emissions resulting from the lower global sulphur cap are expected to have a significant beneficial impact on the environment and on human health, particularly that of people living in port cities and coastal communities, beyond the existing emission control areas,” Mr. Lim said.

Further work to ensure effective implementation of the 2020 global sulphur cap will continue in the IMO’s Sub-Committee on Pollution Prevention and Response (PPR), which has it next meeting in January 2017.

Christer Ågren

1 IMO Document MEPC 70/INF.6 “Assessment of fuel oil availability – final report” (July 2016).
2 IMO Document MEPC 70/INF.34 “Study on the effects of the entry into force of the global 0.5% fuel oil sulphur content limit on human health” (August 2016).

T&E press release:…

IMO briefing:…

IMO sulphur regulation

IMO regulations governing sulphur emissions from ships are included in Annex VI to the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL Convention). Under the new global cap, from 1 January 2020 ships will have to use fuel oil on board with a sulphur content of no more than 0.5 per cent, as compared to the current limit of 3.5 per cent that has been in effect since 1 January 2012. Fuel oil used on board includes use in main and auxiliary engines and boilers.

Ships can meet the requirement by using lower-sulphur compliant fuel oil or other types of fuel, such as liquefied natural gas (LNG) or methanol. Alternatively, ships can meet the sulphur emission requirements by using approved exhaust gas cleaning systems (scrubbers), which remove the sulphur emissions before they are released into the atmosphere. The new global 0.5 per cent cap will not change the 0.1 per cent sulphur limit that has applied since 1 January 2015 in Sulphur Emission Control Areas (SECA) established by the IMO.

Big benefits of cleaner marine fuel

Air quality in coastal areas improved significantly in 2015 after stricter sulphur limits for marine fuels were introduced in the North Sea and the Baltic Sea.

In several countries bordering the North Sea and the Baltic Sea, concentrations of sulphur dioxide (SO₂) have come down by 50 per cent or more in 2015 compared to previous years, according to a recent study by the Dutch research consultancy CE Delft conducted on behalf of the German environmental group NABU (Nature and
Biodiversity Conservation Union).

The study has investigated the experiences of the first year of applying stricter marine fuel sulphur standards in the Sulphur Emission Control Area (SECA) covering the North Sea and the Baltic Sea. It focussed on air quality, socio-economic effects, impacts on business, and on compliance and enforcement.

As from 1 January 2015 the maximum sulphur content of marine fuels used in SECAs was reduced by 90 per cent, from 1.0 to 0.1 per cent. The resulting health benefits of better air quality were estimated to amount to between €4.4 and 8 billion.

This can be compared to the cost to the maritime sector of moving to low-sulphur marine gas oil (MGO) in the North Sea and the Baltic Sea, which was estimated at €2.3 billion.

The researchers conclude that the health benefits of lower emissions of SO₂ and particulate matter (PM) were between 1.9 and 3.5 times higher than the increase in fuel costs, which means that the benefits of introducing the new regulations clearly outweighed the cost.

Before its implementation, there were industry concerns that the stricter fuel standard would significantly increase fuel costs and that there would be problems with the availability of low sulphur fuels. There were also concerns about impacts on the industry, such as closures of companies or services, and potential shifts towards road transport. The lack of effective surveillance schemes to ensure compliance and enforcement were also subject to debate.

The study found that the availability of MGO has proven to be sufficient and that the price of MGO actually decreased – the latter mainly as the result of reduced oil prices in general. However, the MGO price decreased more sharply than the price of heavy fuel oil (HFO) and automotive diesel. In fact, by the end of 2015, the price of 0.1 per cent sulphur MGO was at the same level as the price of high-sulphur HFO was at in the beginning of 2015.

No significant shifts towards road transport were found for RoRo transport, which is regarded as the market segment that is most sensitive to a modal shift.

Moreover, no company or service closures, nor any decrease in cargo turnover in Northern European ports, was found that could be clearly linked to the introduction of the stricter sulphur standard.

Interestingly, some shipping companies reported a financial record year for the year 2015 and established new services.

According to data for 2015 from the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA), between three and nine per cent of the ships were non-compliant in the Baltic Sea and North Sea, respectively. It should be noted that countries typically use a margin of up to 20 per cent above the legal threshold during control in ports for reporting deficiencies and 50 per cent for applying sanctions.

It is believed that the rate of noncompliance on the open seas might be significantly higher, but the limited data available does not allow any firm conclusions.

More and better data are needed in order to estimate the actual compliance rate on the open seas. In addition, fuel sampling needs to be intensified in 2016 in order to meet the required 30–40 fuel samples per 100 administrative inspections, as required by EU legislation.

It is recommended that there should be further development of monitoring and control techniques, including control on the open seas, to improve the effectiveness of the inspection regime. The authors also recommend that countries apply sanctions that are proportionate to the economic benefits of non-compliance.

Christer Ågren

Sources: CE Delft press release and Ends Europe Daily, 20 April 2016

The study: “SECA Assessment: Impacts of 2015 SECA marine fuel sulphur limits” (April 2016).

By CE Delft, the Netherlands. Downloadable at:

What a waste: Bulk of Hong Kong marine litter is plastic, say green groups

Plastic comprises more than two-thirds of marine litter accumulating in many coastal areas in Hong Kong, a new survey has found.

Led by WWF-Hong Kong and six partners, the Coastal Watch Project found that the plastic in floating and underwater marine litter posed a grave threat to ecosystems.

Project manager Patrick Yeung Chung-wing stressed that the marine litter problem had to be tackled at source as it would be absorbed into the food chain and affect human health. “We also found fish bite marks on pieces of plastic litter,” he said.

“The pollutants absorbed by marine animals will potentially bio-accumulate along the food chain, which will eventually damage the marine ecosystem and affect fishery resources and human health.”


An average of 391 pieces of marine litter sized more than 1cm were collected in each five-metre stretch. In total, plastic accounted for 62 per cent of the litter. It mainly consisted of fragments, packaging, bottle caps, string, rope or ribbon and cutlery.

A total of 131 pieces of smaller marine litter were collected in every one-square-metre area, with plastic constituting 67.4 per cent of the rubbish. Items were mainly polystyrene fragments, broken pieces of polystyrene boxes and other forms of packaging.

The researchers’ first ever investigation of the underwater situation also showed that 60 per cent of the refuse in every 100-metre area consisted of plastic debris such as disposable items and abandoned fishing gear. Heavier items such as glass and metal were also common.

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Roughly 85 per cent of floating marine refuse was plastic such as packaging, bottles, cutlery, foam boxes and even large containers from the city’s markets.

About 1,125 volunteers collected data at 27 coastal sites ranging from mangroves and mudflats to beaches and rocky shore habitats between last July and this May.

The government’s Inter-departmental Working Group on Clean Shorelines, which is coordinated by the Environment Bureau, says it will continue its “three-pronged strategy” of reducing overall waste generation at source, reducing the amount of refuse entering the marine environment and removing marine refuse as well as discouraging use of disposable items and encouraging recycling.

Sandia leads partnership to develop high-speed hydrogen fuel cell ferry for San Francisco

When it comes to environmental sustainability, Red and White Fleet president Tom Escher is all in.

“Everyone is talking about reducing emissions by 20 percent, 40 percent or more,” he says. “I thought, ‘Why not do away with emissions altogether?'”

Sandia National Laboratories and San Francisco's Red and White Fleet are partnering to develop a high-speed, hydrogen fuel cell-powered passenger ferry and refueling station. [Photo courtesy: Red and White Fleet]

Sandia National Laboratories and San Francisco’s Red and White Fleet are partnering to develop a high-speed, hydrogen fuel cell-powered passenger ferry and refueling station. [Photo courtesy: Red and White Fleet]

Sandia National Laboratories, which recently signed a cooperative research and development agreement with Red and White Fleet, is helping the San Francisco-based company realize that goal. Named SF-BREEZE (San Francisco Bay Renewable Energy Electric vessel with Zero Emissions), the project aims to design, build, and operate a high-speed hydrogen fuel cell passenger ferry and hydrogen refueling station.

Hydrogen fuel cells have several advantages over the diesel engines that power most passenger ferries: no harmful exhaust emissions, higher energy efficiency, quiet operation, and no risk of fuel spills. Replacing diesel engines and generators with hydrogen fuel cells could greatly improve air and water quality in harbor areas.

The hydrogen refueling station is planned to be the largest in the world and serve fuel cell electric cars, buses, and fleet vehicles in addition to the ferry and other maritime vehicles.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration (MARAD) is funding a feasibility study to examine the technical, regulatory, and economic aspects of the project.

“The Maritime Administration is committed to finding new and efficient technologies for use in the maritime industry that reduce pollution and protect our environment,” says Maritime Administrator Paul ‘Chip’ Jaenichen. “This industry continues moving forward on renewable energy and clean-fuel options, and this project encourages a shift toward lower-impact maritime fuels that may further green the waterborne link in our national transportation system.”

Sandia is leading the study in partnership with Red and White Fleet, the American Bureau of Shipping, the U.S. Coast Guard, and naval architect Elliott Bay Design Group. Other contributors include the California Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Resources Board and the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development.

“We are involving so many stakeholders up front because if the feasibility study shows a ‘go,’ we want to make sure the next phase has a rock-solid foundation,” says mechanical engineer Joe Pratt, the Sandia project lead. “We hope that the feasibility study, regardless of the outcome, can be useful to others nationally and around the world who are looking at hydrogen fuel cell vessels as clean-energy alternatives.”

Boat speed critical to economic viability
Economic viability is essential to the success of SF-BREEZE.

“Rather than a tour boat that would primarily be a demonstration project, Red and White Fleet believes a high-speed passenger ferry makes economic sense,” Pratt says. To compete with existing transportation methods — cars, buses, Bay Area Rapid Transit, and other ferries — the ferry must be fast. But speed adds complexity.

“If you are trying to achieve speed, boat weight is important,” Pratt says. “Fuel cells and hydrogen are heavier than existing diesel engines and fuel, so the question becomes can you build a boat powered by hydrogen fuel cells that is both large and fast enough? The feasibility study will provide that answer.”

A preliminary conceptual study shows the answer is probably yes, but it will require a boat specially designed to accommodate hydrogen fuel and the fuel cell technology. A traditional passenger ferry can’t easily be retrofitted with a hydrogen fuel cell, so it was essential to include a naval architect in the feasibility study. The ferry design will include collaboration with the American Bureau of Shipping and the Coast Guard to ensure the final design conforms to safety and reliability rules and regulations.

The world’s largest hydrogen refueling station
The boat — design, operation, maintenance, and fueling — is one part of the equation; the hydrogen refueling station is the other. The high-speed passenger ferry would use about 1,000 kg of hydrogen per day. To put this in perspective, an average hydrogen fuel cell car might use less than 5 kg of hydrogen per week.

To support the ferry and other potential users, the refueling station would have a capacity of 1,500 kg a day — about twice the size of the largest hydrogen refueling station in the world. It would also be the first hydrogen refueling station to simultaneously serve land and marine uses.

The economy of scale could boost the local hydrogen fuel cell marketplace. “A larger station reduces the cost per kilogram of hydrogen,” says Pratt. “Higher use will drive down that cost even more.”

Reducing the cost of hydrogen refueling could stimulate the market for hydrogen fuel cell cars and accelerate wider adoption of the technology in other vehicle markets, such as heavy-duty trucks and buses.

“This project offers an opportunity to closely examine how hydrogen can take its rightful place as a clean, low-carbon fuel for high-volume transportation operations, and also build the business case as part of an innovative application for fuel cells,” says Catherine Dunwoody, chief of the Fuel Cell Program at the California Air Resources Board.

Feasibility study will address regulations
SF-BREEZE will enter new regulatory space, both for the high-speed ferry and refueling station. The feasibility study will examine those regulations and their impact on the project.

For the refueling station, Sandia can draw on its technical expertise in developing and optimizing safe, cost-effective vehicular hydrogen fueling stations. The U.S. Department of Energy Fuel Cell Technologies Office funds most of Sandia’s efforts in this area. Sandia is a leading partner in two nationwide infrastructure initiatives: H2USA, a private-public partnership focused on advancing hydrogen infrastructure, and the Hydrogen Fueling Infrastructure Research and Station Technology (H2FIRST), a U.S. Department of Energy project established to support H2USA.

“The knowledge, tools, and stakeholder resources we’ve cultivated through these initiatives will directly apply to developing the large, multi-use hydrogen refueling station,” says Pratt. “We will work closely with the Air Resources Board and the California Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development to determine the best location for the refueling station and understand the associated regulations.”

Sandia leads the Maritime Fuel Cell project, which is piloting the use of a hydrogen fuel cell to power refrigerated containers on land and on transport barges at the Port of Honolulu. [See Designfax story here.]

“Working with the Bureau of Shipping and the Coast Guard, we’ve explored some of the unique issues related to using a hydrogen fuel cell on a vessel and in the marine environment,” says Pratt. “But there is more at stake when the fuel cell is powering the boat, not an auxiliary system, and the boat is carrying passengers.”

Vessel design next step
If the feasibility study indicates that SF-BREEZE could succeed technically, economically, and within regulations, the next step is to design the vessel. The project will need additional funding, resources, and partners, which could come from the federal government, the state of California, investors, industry, or private foundations.

Escher joked that if the project ultimately succeeds, it could hurt him financially.

“It will make all of my boats obsolete, and I’ll have to replace my entire fleet,” he says. “But in all seriousness, this is really about preserving the environment for future generations.”

He hopes to continue Red and White’s tradition of leadership and environmental stewardship established by his grandfather, Thomas Crowley, who started the company in 1892.

“I want to ride across the San Francisco Bay on a quiet, fast boat with no emissions,” he says. “If we get thirsty, we can drink the exhaust.”

Nature lover vows to clean up Hong Kong waters

If you commit your energies to protecting the oceans, it helps to live close to the sea.

That’s how Toronto-born Lisa Christensen found her calling growing up in a small town on the US east coast, where she developed a healthy respect for nature.

She recalls a time of bliss.

“There was nearly no pollution. The air, water and the beaches were all so clean,” Christensen says.

“Nature is a wonderful thing. We should all learn from it.”

She did. In 2000, she founded Ecovision, an environmental awareness group in which she also serves as chief executive.

Christensen’s parents moved to Hong Kong in 1989 when her mother got a job at KPMG. She followed eight years later.

She had her first experience with Big Wave Bay on Hong Kong Island but was later horrified to find it strewn with debris, some of which had washed ashore.

The sight brought her to tears.

“I have travelled with my parents to South America and Europe since I was young but I have never seen such a scene,” she says.

She decided to do something about it.

Christensen went to beach clean-up events with friend Christine Loh, who would later become undersecretary for the environment and from whom she would learn about environmental issues.

Christensen quit her job as a sports marketing professional to establish Ecovision, working with schools and shopping malls tor collect and recycle waste.“It was a decision made out of passion,” says Christensen. “My father has been my biggest supporter.” Not even SARS could stop her, although the 2003 outbreak seriously dented her recycling efforts to a point where many of her projects were canceled. After her father died of brain cancer in 2006, Christensen pressed on. And when her mother returned to Canada, she decided to stay in Hong Kong.

“I love Hong Kong. It’s such a lovely, vibrant city,” she says.

And the rubbish problem? “It’s not impossible to tackle.”

Later, Christensen realized Hong Kong was not ready for recycling because people lacked awareness.

Hence, she decided to turn her venture into an environmental awareness organization. It organizes educational campaigns and the annual Hong Kong Cleanup Challenge for schools and civic organizations. Christensen says the clean-up campaigns are just the first step. Education is key to spreading waste consciousness. “In the 1997 policy address, Hong Kong landfills were projected to full by 2009. Yet, the government has not come up with a better waste management system and simply expanded the landfills year after year.”

Christensen has recently introduced Zero Waste Week to Hong Kong businesses to promote reduction of plastic and paper waste.

“Zero waste is achievable,” she says.

She cites a San Francisco resort which has cut waste production by 95 percent in 14 years, and the Slovenian capital Ljubljana which has been declared as the first city to adopt a zero waste policy, with more than 60 percent of its waste reduced by recycling.

Christensen says Hong Kong should also set a target to end waste production.

“I’m hopeful that Hong Kong will show a much higher level of environmental awareness,” she says.

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):

CNN: Ship emissions blamed for worsening pollution in Hong Kong

by Grigory Kravtsov, reporting for CNN:

Smog is a common sight in Hong Kong, with the amount of polluted days increasing by 28 percent to 303 so far this year.

Hong Kongers would be quick to point the finger at Chinese factories across the border. Yet, research is increasingly indicating that the problem is much more localized, coming from emissions produced by shipping.

What we know in Hong Kong is that up to 50% of pollution [locally produced] sources come from marine vessels,” said Gina McCarthy, administrator at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Smog levels within the city of over 7 million reached hazardous levels earlier this week, with particles in one urban area, Sham Shui Po hitting a PM2.5, hitting 91.7 micrograms per cubic meter of air. Anything above 71 is classified as “very dangerous” according to the World Health Organization guidelines.

Maritime pollution in Hong Kong is blamed for the most sulfur dioxide-related deaths within the region. According to a recent report jointly compiled by the Civic Exchange and The University of Science and Technology, Hong Kong saw 385 deaths caused by the hazardous chemical, for which shipping is to blame.

The city lacks regulations in tackling maritime pollution, as there is no legislation or requirements for shipping companies to switch to cleaner fuel when entering Hong Kong waters.


Lack of Emissions Control Area in HK waters will continue to leave Hong Kong blanketed in smog

Less than a week after favourable weather cleared the skies of Hong Kong, the city is covered again in particles. It has become a common refrain for city officials to sing of their achievements in switching out diesel engines from the roads, and after that for Legco members to debate to no end as to how (un)successful their measures have been in improving the city’s air quality.

It is also commonly known, albeit with less attention paid, that cargo ships – especially ocean-going vessels – are a major contributor to pollutants as they move through the waters of Hong Kong. In addition to Hong Kong’s own Kwai Chung terminal, ships docking at Shenzhen’s Yantian and Shekou terminals pass through channels east and west of Hong Kong respectively, meaning Hong Kong bears the brunt of the emissions whichever way the prevailing winds blow.

Thus far, Hong Kong’s policymakers have only implemented a weak policy – incentivising ships docking at Kwai Chung to switch to cleaner fuels when moving in Hong Kong, transitioning into a compulsory requirement by Sep 2014. Meanwhile, there are already complaints that this would ‘hurt competitiveness’ of the Kwai Chung terminal in comparison with Shenzhen’s terminals (of which Hong Kong’s Hutchison Whampoa, and the Wharf, are shareholders).

The situation can be greatly improved if Hong Kong officials can push for the implementation of an Emissions Control Area, which will effectively make the same clean fuel requirements for Shenzhen’s terminals. This may call for cross-border co-operation between policymakers in order for the policy to be strictly enforced, but if Hong Kong officials wish to display some real work done, there can be no better opportunity.

Clear The Air has prepared a brief document on this issue.