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Pollution from cargo ships drops in wake of new California rules

Maersk ship

point in the journey from factory to store shelves, as much as 90% of the world’s shipped goods  spends time on board a ship. For places like Los Angeles and Long Beach, the good news about this supply chain reality is that the biggest seaports handle the most cargo and get the greatest number of generally well paying jobs.

The bad news is also sizeable. Cargo ships at sea burn what can only be described as the — in the words of one research chemist — “bottom of the barrel” grade of fuel, also known as bunker.

“Bottom of the barrel is literally what bunker fuel is. It’s what the refineries have left after all of the cleaner burning fuels — aviation, gasoline, diesel — has been produced. It’s the sludge at the bottom where all of the bad stuff concentrates, all of the sulfur and the heavy-metal compounds,” said chemist Dan Lack, who works with with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Earth System Research Laboratory and the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences.

But Lack and his associates have some data that might literally help those who live near California’s major seaports breathe a little easier: When cargo ships slow down and switch to a cleaner-burning fuel as they approach shore, the reduction in pollution levels is startling.

Their study of a Maersk cargo container ship operating under California’s 2009 near-shore, low-sulfur fuels regulation and the state’s voluntary slowdown policy found that emissions of several health-damaging pollutants, including sulfur dioxide and particulate matter, fell dramatically. The ship was the Margrethe Maersk.

Sulfur dioxide levels fell 91%. Sulfur dioxide emissions can lead to the formation of particulate matter in the atmosphere that poses serious public health concerns. Particulate matter pollution, which can damage people’s lungs and hearts, dropped 90%.

Lack said the study was important because it involved a case in which a regulation wasn’t ignored after it was enacted.

“It’s important to know that the imposed regulations have the expected impacts. The regulators want to know, the shipping companies want to know, and so do the people,” Lack said.


California joins suit against Inland Empire project

Terminal operators at ports agree to cut diesel emissions

— Ronald D. White

Photo: The container ship Margrethe Maersk steams toward California in May 2010. Credit: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences

Port of Antwerp joins clean shipping project

The Port of Antwerp is participating in the Clean North Sea Shipping (CNSS) project

The Port of Antwerp has announced that it is participating in a clean shipping project that aims to cut down on air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from vessels operating in the North Sea region of Europe.

The Clean North Sea Shipping (CNSS) project incorporates 18 partners from six countries, and is looking to raise awareness, share knowledge and convince influential stakeholders to take action and accountability relating to the environment.

Stakeholders include regional and European politicians, ports, shipping companies and cargo owners.

As part of the project, a new website gathering information on clean shipping technology has been launched by CNSS, covering both current and future legislation and technology, as well as economic and environmental benefits for the shipping industry and port authorities.

The website serves as a guide for existing nearby and long-term technological solutions to reduce carbon dioxides (CO2), sulphur oxides (SOx) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) in order to promote the development of a sustainable maritime transport system, with the “ultimate challenge” seen as developing and implementing zero emission technologies.

Maritime shipping is estimated to represent approximately 3% of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, with maritime CO2 emissions expected to increase by two to three times by 2050 if no action is taken.

The initiative is not the only one being implemented within the region.

Last month, the North Sea Foundation informed Sustainable Shipping that it is getting ready to introduce the Clean Shipping Project’s environmental index tool to Germany.

The Clean Shipping Index (CSI) is a transparent tool that can be used by cargo owners to evaluate the environmental performance of their providers of sea transport.

Adam Currie, Vancouver News Desk, 30th September 2011 17:12 GMT

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Shipping’s new rules ‘to clear the air’

South China Morning Post – 25 July 2011

New international rules on maritime industry’s energy efficiency will help owners cut costs and save on fuel, according to carbon lobby group

The shipping sector could become cleaner than the aviation industry following the approval by the UN shipping agency of a new energy efficiency design index and other measures aimed at improving ships’ environmental performance, according to an NGO.

The new rules, adopted by the International Maritime Organisation earlier this month, could also save the shipping industry US$5 billion in fuel costs and cut carbon dioxide emissions by 20 million tonnes a year on new ships by 2020, said Peter Boyd, chief operating officer of the Carbon War Room, an NGO set up by a group including British billionaire Richard Branson.

Boyd said the IMO’s new rules would lead to fuel savings of US$50 billion a year and an annual reduction in carbon dioxide emissions of more than 220 million tonnes if the standards were applied to the existing fleet of 60,000 ships.

Boyd was commenting after the IMO approved regulations to implement efficiency ratings for ships over 400 gross tonnes, which are expected to enter into force on January 1, 2013. The measure, which will apply to ships ordered after a specific date, was approved overwhelmingly by 48 countries that voted at the IMO’s marine environment protection committee about 10 days ago.

China was one of only five countries that voted against the measure. Consequently, while mainland shipyards are likely to build more energy-efficient ships for foreign owners, there will be no pressure on those shipyards to comply when building ships to be registered in China for mainland owners such as China Ocean Shipping (Group).

Clauses in the pact allow countries to delay implementation for up to four to six years after the commencement date of the rules. As a result, there is some uncertainty over how quickly the energy-efficiency design index and the associated energy efficiency management plan will be implemented.

Under the IMO regulations shipowners will have to meet the new efficiency ratings for each type of vessel they order. Dry cargo bulk carriers will have a different rating than tankers or container ships.

The IMO also leaves the choice of technologies used in a specific ship design to the maritime industry. This could include changes to the hull design or propulsion system which are already being incorporated by some shipowners, including Hong Kong operators.

Asked if shipping companies would seek early compliance with the ratings or take advantage of the potential delay given to some countries, Arthur Bowring, managing director of the Hong Kong Shipowners’ Association, said: “It really depends on the cost of compliance. Shipbuilders might try to ask for a premium [on the cost of a new ship] to implement early because it is not yet required by regulation.”

But Bowring said the industry was “suffering an overcapacity of shipbuilding and so the cost might well be absorbed, at least partially”.

“Whether flag states will take advantage of the four-year delay could well be a political decision to object to the process rather than anything else,” Bowring said. He also thought it was “actually in the owner’s interest to have the energy efficiency design index for his new buildings, in that it should make the ship more attractive as a sale candidate later on.”

Tim Huxley, chief executive of Wah Kwong Maritime Holdings, which operates a fleet of tankers and dry cargo ships, said it was too soon to assess the impact of the regulations on its operations, “although it will obviously have an impact on any new ships we might build in the future. The interesting part is going to be how quickly the shipbuilding and engine manufacturers respond.”

One Hong Kong shipowner said vessels were designed to have a lifespan of 25 to 27 years, but the impact of the IMO regulations meant that some ships being delivered now could already be obsolete.

Jan Rindbo, chief operating officer of Pacific Basin Shipping (SEHK: 2343announcementsnews) , said: “We are supportive of the creation of sensible but effective industry-wide measures to reduce emissions, and for such measures to be the jurisdiction of the IMO.”

Proposal of Emission Control Area to Reduce Emissions from Ships in the U.S. Caribbean

The Proposed U.S. Caribbean ECA

The area of the proposed U.S. Caribbean ECA includes waters adjacent to coasts of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The northern and southern boundaries of the proposed area would extend roughly 50 nautical miles (nm) and 40 nm, respectively, from the territorial sea baseline of the main island of Puerto Rico. The western edge of the proposed area would generally run north-south, about half way between the Puerto Rican island of Mona and the west coast of the main island. The eastern edge of the proposed area would generally run north-south, but extend eastward through the area between the U.S. Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands and also eastward through the area between Saint Croix and Anguilla and Saint Kitts. The proposed ECA is bounded such that it does not extend into marine areas subject to the sovereignty, sovereign rights, or jurisdiction of any state other than the United States.

North American Emission Control Area

On March 26, 2010, the IMO officially designated waters off North American coasts as an area in which stringent international emission standards will apply to ships. These standards will dramatically reduce air pollution from ships and deliver substantial air quality and public health benefits that extend hundreds of miles inland.

In 2020, EPA expects emissions from ships operating in the designated area to be reduced by 320,000 tons for NOx, 90,000 tons for PM2.5, and 920,000 tons for SOx, which is 23 percent, 74 percent, and 86 percent, respectively, below predicted levels in 2020 absent the ECA.

In practice, implementation of the ECA means that ships entering the designated area would need to use compliant fuel for the duration of their voyage that is within that area, including time in port as well as voyages whose routes pass through the area without calling on a port.  The quality of fuel that complies with the ECA standard will change over time. From the effective date in 2012 until 2015, fuel used by all vessels operating in designated areas cannot exceed 1.0 percent sulfur (10,000 ppm). Beginning in 2015, fuel used by vessels operating in these areas cannot exceed 0.1 percent sulfur (1,000 ppm).  Beginning in 2016, NOx afte rtreatment requirements become applicable

The area of the North American ECA includes waters adjacent to the Pacific coast, the Atlantic/Gulf coast and the eight main Hawaiian Islands.1 (footnote). It extends up to 200 nautical miles from coasts of the United States, Canada and the French territories, except that it does not extend into marine areas subject to the sovereignty or jurisdiction of other States.

Maersk to use low-sulphur fuel in NZ


Photo / Hawke’s Bay Today

Maersk Line ships will switch to low-sulphur fuel when in New Zealand ports to cut pollution in cities.

The shipping line says the switch lowers sulphur oxide levels in their exhaust gases by more than 80 per cent.

Maersk’s New Zealand managing director, Julian Bevis, said marine fuels were higher in sulphur content that those used on land and while the industry as a whole was examining ways to reduce total emissions, switching to low-sulphur fuels in port was a way of improving the environmental performance of the fleet and improving air quality in and around New Zealand’s ports.

The company has already begun similar initiatives in Hong Kong, Europe and several North American ports.

HK firm leads on fuel change

South China Morning Post — 6 Dec. 2010

Edward Rossiter (“Whiff of change in fuel switch?”, December 2) is right to praise those shipping companies that have decided to burn low-sulphur fuel at berth in Hong Kong. However, I believe he is wrong in thinking that a European company led the change. The then Hong Kong-based China Navigation Company, which is owned by John Swire and Sons and had been operating out of Hong Kong since Noah was a boy, switched to low-sulphur fuel not only at berth in Hong Kong but throughout the Pearl River Delta region, from January 26, 2008. At the time, they invited other shipping lines to follow their example, and we should all be delighted that this is now happening.

I do not seek to belittle Maersk, whose environmental initiatives are impressive in scope and global in scale, but it was a local company which showed the way in Hong Kong. It is also encouraging to note that the majority of companies that have signed the charter are based in East Asia. Let’s hope the rest of the global shipping community will soon catch up.

Most tugs, ferries and other forms of local craft already burn low-sulphur marine gas oil. It is the heavy bunker fuel on ocean-going vessels that is the major pollutant, and it is this that is now being significantly reduced, thanks to a handful of major shipping lines.

Finally, I have been blaming the acrid smell which lurks above Stonecutters Bridge on the new sewage treatment plant located near the PLA Navy base and Government Dockyard.

Push for emissions control area in Hong Kong


Orient Overseas Container Line is pushing for Hong Kong to become Asia’s first emission control area.

The push is on for tighter ship emissions rules in Hong Kong.

The company also says the government should offer subsidies to shipping companies to help meet their environmental obligations.

OOCL director of corporate planning Stephen Ng says Hong Kong should make it mandatory for all players to abide by emissions rules and not rely on current voluntary standards.

“We need a level playing field,” he said.

Mr Ng accused the territory’s government of inaction.

“As far as Hong Kong is concerned, what we want to see is involvement from the government,” he said.

“The government needs to be in collaboration with the mainland.

“Hong Kong cannot do it alone.”

He was “not seeing active participation” on the issue by the territory’s political leaders, he said.

Mr Ng said cooperation with the central government in Beijing, or at the very least with the provincial government in neighbouring Guangdong province, was required if a framework of standards were to make sense.

He also said the government should consider subsidising the scheme.

“We get a break in terms of ports charges,” Mr Ng said.

The Hong Kong Government had a similar subsidy program in place for power companies, he added.

Earlier this year, members of the Hong Kong Liner Shipping Association, including OOCL, agreed to a set of voluntary clean fuel initiatives aimed at reducing air pollution caused by emissions from ships.

Shipping lines to voluntarily cut emissions in Hong Kong

16 Oct. 2010

Hong Kong – A dozen of the world’s largest container shipping lines have

agreed to switch voluntarily to low sulphur fuel while at port in Hong Kong,

a media report said Saturday.

The fuel is more expensive, but emits less sulphur oxide gases, which cause

acid rain and contribute to particulate pollution.

The firms have also urged the Hong Kong government to make the

less-polluting fuel compulsory, the South China Morning Post reported.

Currently, the maximum sulphur level worldwide in marine diesel is set at

4.5 per cent by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), and set to

drop to 0.5 per cent by 2020.

But 13 member firms of the Hong Kong Liner Shipping Association have agreed

to switch to fuel with levels of only 0.5 to 1 per cent sulphur while their

ships are berthed at Kwai Chung port, starting January 1.

They said that the initiative, under the association’s Fair Winds Charter,

aims to improve air quality in Hong Kong, especially as the port is located

in the heart of the city.

The voluntary initiative is to cost each company an estimated 500,000 to 1

million US dollars per year.

The participating firms include Denmark-based AP Moeller-Maersk A/S, the

world’s largest shipping company, Hong Kong’s leader Orient Overseas

(International) Ltd, Singapore’s APL Co Pte Ltd, Evergreen Marine Corp from

Taiwan, the French group CMA CGM SA and German carrier Hapag-Lloyd AG.

The 13 companies involved account for 60 per cent of ship traffic in Hong

Kong, the world’s third-busiest port by container.

‘Nowhere else in the world is the shipping industry putting pressure on

government to legislate over emissions,’ Veronica Booth, a researcher with

the public policy think tank Civic Exchange, said.

Booth said the improved air quality would benefit people working and living

in Kwai Chung and adjacent districts of Hong Kong.

Shipping companies operating in many North American and European ports are

already subject to agreements or regulations requiring them to make the

extra investment in low-sulphur fuel.

Ships in Hong Kong, or other South-East Asian shipping hubs Singapore,

Taiwan or Japan are currently exempt from any obligations above and beyond

the IMO guidelines, and are still allowed to run on the cheaper,

4.5-per-cent-sulphur fuel.

Shipping lines set course for lower gas emissions

South China Morning Post — 11 Oct. 2010

Black oily smoke plumes belching from the funnels of large cargo ships and drifting over Kwai Chung and the surrounding districts could soon ease if shipping firms agree to change to less polluting low-sulphur fuel.

Around 20 of the biggest container shipping carriers using Hong Kong port are expected to confirm by Friday that they will make the switch from January 1.

One member of the Hong Kong Liner Shipping Association, Danish shipping giant Maersk, has already stolen a march on its rivals by not only agreeing but actually making the change from early September.

The move miffed some of its fellow association members, not least the Tung family-controlled shipping line, Orient Overseas Container Lines, because it appeared to break a gentlemen’s agreement that January 1, 2011, would be the implementation date for the switch.

Insiders said other container lines, including OOCL, were eager to follow suit and prove their green  credentials.

A 2005 study by think tank Civic Exchange and two universities showed vessels around the Kwai Chung container port were responsible for more than a third of the sulphur dioxide emissions measured at the Environmental Protection Department’s air quality stations. EPD figures also show that sulphur dioxide emissions from ships rose 16 per cent between 2001 and 2005.

The shift to low-sulphur fuel while dockside is a small step but is also part of a wider shipping industry focus to cut emissions of carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide and sulphur dioxide. It’s a direction that could lead ultimately to significant changes in ship design and a broader range of fuels used at sea and in port.

Research is under way on several technologies such as wind and solar systems to augment the diesel main engines of vessels already in commercial service. Moves are also taking place to replace diesel with liquefied natural gas or nuclear power.

Vince Jenkins, global marine risk adviser with Lloyd’s Register, said the shipping industry would see “much greater diversity” of fuels with less reliance on diesel.

Jenkins is heavily involved in efforts to develop nuclear-powered commercial merchant ships, which have also attracted interest from Chinese and South Korean shipbuilders as well as key shipping industry players. These include China Ocean Shipping chief executive Wei Jiafu.

“If we could prove we are able to use nuclear energy on ships safely this could be one of the solutions,” Wei told a maritime industry forum in December.

Jenkins said there were already around 600 nuclear-powered vessels operating around the world, including about 200 commercial ships.

He said the move towards a nuclear-powered merchant fleet would be a national decision with large shipowners working in association with specific shipbuilders and  governments.

“Yards have been talking to us,” he said. “I can see China making a decision” to develop a nuclear powered commercial fleet.

That decision could be several years away, but marine experts, shipowners and shipbuilders are taking their own steps to save fuel and  reduce emissions.

Part of this push has been mandated by the International Maritime Organisation, which aims to cut sulphur dioxide emissions from ships from 4.5 per cent today to 0.5 per cent by 2020.

The shipping industry is taking action partly to save money after fuel prices hit a record high of around US$730 per tonne for the lowest grade bunker fuel in July 2008, while low-sulphur prices were almost double the bunker price.

Container shipping lines, including OOCL, Cosco and South Korea’s Hanjin Shipping have cut the speed of their ships from around 24-25 knots to about 14-15 knots. Maersk estimated that it saved about US$500 million and cut carbon emissions by 15 per cent after introducing slow steaming at the end of last year.

Other technological improvements have been made by carriers such as OOCL and French container shipping company CMA CGM on their large containerships to improve the efficiency of engines, propellers and hull paint.

Danish ship classification society Det Norske Veritas estimated the global shipping industry could cut its emissions by 15 per cent – equivalent to about at 225 million tonnes per year – by adopting 10 existing technologies. These include cutting ship speeds, better voyage planning and improving propeller design and propulsion efficiency.

But the cut in emissions, together with the commensurate fuel savings, could climb to more than 800 million tonnes per year by 2030 if new technologies such as liquefied natural gas power and fixed sails and winds were adopted.

Danish shipowner Norden is already working with Chinese shipbuilder, Jiangmen Nanyang Ship Engineering, to change the design of two 33,700 deadweight dry cargo ships. Norden senior vice president Lars Lundegaard said the changes involved using a bigger engine and propeller on the ships that are due for  delivery by early 2012.

He said the move would cut fuel consumption and emissions by 10 per cent, while a further 5.4 per cent saving would result from other  innovations such as hull paints.

Japanese shipping companies, Mitsui OSK Lines and Nippon Yusen Kaisha, recently unveiled their design of concept vessels to save fuel and cut pollution.

Mitsui said its designs were based on existing technologies, including solar power and a more aerodynamic design. The firm forecast emissions could be cut by 41 per cent for its car carrier design, rising to half on bigger vessels.

The NYK ship design uses innovations such as fuel cells to reduce fuel consumption and emissions.

Shenzhen and HK ports between them are the largest shipping area in the world and exceeding Singapore But we have no Emissions Control Area like Longbeach

South China Morning Post — 1 Oct. 2010