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Pearl River Delta

Hong Kong to join mainland China’s fuel emissions plan

National scheme for control areas excluded special administrative region, but local government looks to opt in from 2019

Ships plying the Pearl River Delta, including Hong Kong waters, will have to use cleaner fuel as a part of one of three new national emissions control areas, beginning 2019, the Post has learned.

This follows calls by experts and industry insiders to extend the city’s mandatory fuel switch-at-berth regulation one step further to cover its waters, falling in line with new mainland measures.

The mainland’s Ministry of Transport drew up three emissions control areas – the Pearl River Delta, Yangtze River Delta and the Bohai Economic Rim – in December.

Under that plan, all marine vessels will have to switch to low sulphur fuel while in Chinese waters, regardless of whether they are berthed, unlike Hong Kong’s current law, which is limited to berthed ships. The emissions control areas (ECAs) are pencilled to take effect in January 2019.

The ministry’s edict excludes Hong Kong and Macau from the ECA, but a spokesman for the Environmental Protection Department last night confirmed Hong Kong would be part of it.

“Hong Kong … will collaborate with the relevant mainland authorities to put the ECA in place,” a spokesman told the Post.

Simon Ng Ka-wing, chief research officer at public policy think tank Civic Exchange welcomed the move, as the discrepancy between Hong Kong and the mainland means ships entering Hong Kong can burn cheaper and dirtier fuel until they berth.

“If the cost difference is big enough, ships will switch back to burning a cheaper fuel for the one to two hours until they get to a berth in Hong Kong,” said Ng.

But he questioned how and if the city would comply with emissions targets set by the ministry under “one country, two systems”.

Hong Kong’s fuel-switch law, which came into effect exactly one year ago today, requires ocean-going vessels calling at the city to switch to fuels with less than 0.5 per cent sulphur at berth. About a tenth of all port calls were already doing so voluntarily -before in came into effect.

Similar measures will go in place in Shenzhen this year.

Ng suggested Hong Kong consider pushing the bar further for the region by requiring a stricter fuel target of 0.1 per cent sulphur – a standard that emissions control areas in the US and Europe have.

Arthur Bowring, managing director of the Shipowners Association, supported tighter fuel standards. He said: “It makes no sense for ships to have to change to a distillate fuel when entering Chinese waters, be able to switch back to dirtier fuel when in Hong Kong waters, and then to switch back to distillate after passing through Hong Kong.

“Hong Kong needs to have its legislation ready so that it is able to bring it into force when the requirement enters into force in [the Pearl River Delta].”

Bowring backed a tighter 0.1 per cent fuel requirement but hoped the supply of those fuels at Asian ports would improve. The department said tightening the standard was “impracticable” due the lack of regional availability.

Since the 1990s shipping, along with power generation, has been the largest contributor of toxic sulphur dioxide emissions in Hong Kong.

The department said data showed sulphur concentrations in Kwai Chung, Tsuen Wan and Sham Shui Po were “30 to 50 per cent lower” in the last 11 months than they were in the preceding period.
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Fuelling a low-emission target

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Shenzhen in 200m yuan push for green shipping

Thursday, 25 September, 2014

Jing Yang

Mainland city plans to spend 200m yuan a year on cash rebates to encourage firms to switch to low-sulphur fuel while at berth to cut emissions

The Shenzhen government plans to spend 200 million yuan (HK$252.7 million) a year on cash rebates to encourage shipping lines to switch to low-sulphur fuel while at berth, following initiatives taken by Hong Kong, as both cities attempt to rein in vessel exhaust emissions.

The Shenzhen government will subsidise between 75 and 100 per cent of the extra costs incurred in the voluntary at-berth switch to fuel with a maximum 0.5 per cent sulphur content, which is more expensive than regular marine bunker that contains 3 to 3.5 per cent sulphur. The scheme will take effect next month and last for three years.

“We are learning from the experiences in Hong Kong, where companies have volunteered to switch to low-sulphur fuel and the government provides subsidies for extra costs incurred,” Dong Yanze, director of the Construction Management Office of Shenzhen municipality’s Transport Commission, said yesterday.

In 2011, 19 shipping firms came together in Hong Kong to voluntarily switch to low-sulphur fuel at berth, bearing the entire extra bunker costs – an average of US$2 million a year – themselves. Known as the Fair Winds Charter, the endeavour did not receive cash subsidies from the city’s government until September last year, when a three-year grant was rolled out that offset up to 50 per cent of the switch costs.

Bunker bills generally account for 20 to 30 per cent in the operational costs of shipping lines, which have been hit by heavy losses in a protracted industry slump.

The Fair Winds Charter also led to a legislative effort in Hong Kong. The Department of Justice is drafting a bill to mandate a switch to low-sulphur fuel for all ocean-going vessels docking at the city’s terminals, the first such legislation in Asia.

The government initially planned to table the bill to the Legislative Council before the summer recess, aiming for the legislation to come into effect early next year.

“There has been [at least a half-year] delay in the drafting of the legislation,” Undersecretary for the Environment Christine Loh Kung-wai said. “We hope the drafting will finish by the end of the year so that we could put it to Legco as soon as possible. We still want the legislation to come into effect within 2015.”

While mooring at ports, cargo ships contribute to 66 per cent of sulphur dioxide emissions in Shenzhen. In Hong Kong, the proportion is 78 per cent, government statistics show.

Shenzhen was pushing for a sulphur emission control area that would cover the Pearl River Delta by 2018, said Li Shuisheng, deputy director of Shenzhen’s Human Settlements and Environment Commission.

“We hope to set an example for other coastal ports in China and that our efforts will be acknowledged by the central government, eventually leading to nationwide policies,” he said.

An emission control area, which could cover either sulphur or nitrogen dioxide or both, is a designated area that must comply with emission caps set by the International Maritime Organisation under the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships. The action, once approved by the maritime body, would be non-discretionary, with emission standards more stringent than in non-emission control areas.

There are currently three such areas in the world – in the Baltic Sea, the North Sea and North America. Asia has lagged behind despite its status as a centre of global shipping traffic.

The steps leading up to the declaration of an emission control area are long and arduous. Hong Kong was collaborating with Shenzhen towards that aim, Loh said.

“2018 is a very aggressive date,” she said. “We are very supportive of the idea to set up [such an area]. But there is a lot of work involved.”

Twenty-three shipping lines signed a joint Green Shipping Shenzhen Declaration yesterday, pledging to contribute to cleaning up the air in the city. It remains unclear how many shipping lines will sign up for the scheme as implementation measures are still being formulated. They are expected to come out by October 1.

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.

Shipping lines complain about expensive clean fuel requirements

Ocean-going vessels, burning bunker fuels with 2.75-4% sulphur content, is a major contributor of air pollutants to Hong Kong. Prevailing winds bring sulphur particles into the ‘urban canyons’ of Hong Kong, where the concentration of particles are increased, posing a huge health hazard to Hong Kong residents.

Shipping lines are now complaining that the requirements imposed by the Hong Kong government to use cleaner fuels will increase their cost of business, and demands that the government extends a subsidy scheme that incentivises the use of cleaner fuels (the scheme does not end until Sep 2015). Alarmist warnings about ‘competitiveness’ with Shenzhen are being sent out, aiming to panick and pressurize the authorities to provide more incentives for doing what is right, even though they can share the extra costs with their clients as per usual business practices.

Of note is that Hong Kong is ‘the only Asian city to impose such a requirement’. Hong Kong should not step backwards from the rare occasion of being the lead in an environmentally-friendly policy, with developing economies increasingly adopting environmental technologies and policies ahead of Hong Kong.

from Anita Lam of the SCMP:

Ships calling at Hong Kong will face higher costs when legislation requiring vessels to switch to cleaner marine fuel upon berthing is passed next year.

Some carriers may, as a result, switch to neighbouring ports in Shenzhen.

To prevent this, shipowners said, the government should consider extending a scheme that subsidises shipping lines – many of which are expected to suffer losses this year – for the extra cost of the clean fuel.

However, a government official said, an extension is unlikely.


LCQ7: Enhanced efforts to reduce vessel emissions

Following is a question by the Hon James To and a written reply by the Secretary for the Environment, Mr Edward Yau, in the Legislative Council today (December 14):


Will the Government inform this Council:

(a) given that the Government has earlier indicated that the pilot scheme for promoting the use of cleaner fuels for local ferries has been completed, of the expected time when it will submit the outcome of the pilot scheme to this Council and for public consultation; moreover, given that the Government has indicated that it has completed the consultation on regulating emissions from non-road mobile machinery which is widely used in places such as container terminals, etc. and it plans to commence the work of enacting legislation in 2012, when the related legislative procedures are expected to complete; of the anticipated improvement in air quality of various districts across the territory upon implementation of the aforesaid scheme/plan;

(b) given that the Chief Executive has proposed in his Policy Address of this year that the Government will explore with the Governments of Guangdong, Shenzhen and Macao proposals for requiring ocean-going vessels in Pearl River Delta (“PRD”) waters to switch to low-sulphur diesel, and setting up an Emission Control Area in PRD waters, whether it knows how the existing regulatory controls over vessel fuels and their emission levels of Hong Kong, Macao and the Mainland compare with one another; whether liaison and meetings with the Mainland and Macao on the relevant subject matter have commenced; in addition, of the expected time when such proposal can be implemented;

(c) given that in response to my question in 2007, the Government indicated that “there is yet to be an internationally-recognised standard for shore power supply and facilities on board for the shipping industry”, thus the proposal of providing shore power supply in public cargo working area or other berthing facilities was considered not practicable for the time being, whereas as far as I understand, there are already more than 15 ports around the world which provide shore power, among which the Port of Shanghai has provided shore power service since last year, and relevant planning has been underway in a number of ports in Taiwan, whether the Government has, in the light of the latest development in various places, started afresh any study in this regard, or liaised with mainland, Taiwan or even international organizations of the trade to understand the relevant technological development as well as to discuss with them the formulation of trade standards; if it has, of the progress;

(d) given that provisions have been made in the design of the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal for the use of shore power in future, whether the Government will consider making additional provisions of the same kind at the Kwai Chung Container Terminals, or initiating pilot schemes on the supply of shore power at various cargo working areas;

(e) since the implementation of the Merchant Shipping (Prevention of Air Pollution) Regulation (Cap. 413M) (“the Regulation”) in 2008, whether there has been an increasing trend of merchant ships violating the Regulation; and up till now, of the number of spot checks conducted by the Marine Department each month, and the number of cases in which the owners concerned were convicted for excessive smoke emissions by their vessels, as well as the fines imposed; and

(f) apart from the measures in (a) to (e), whether the Government has other plans to regulate the emission of pollutants by vessels and container terminal facilities; whether the Government will make reference to the “Green Port” policy introduced by the Mainland and neighbouring regions one after the other to reduce emissions and pollution, and initiate related studies and plans?



With successive implementation of land-based control measures, we have seen improvement in the local air pollution. For example, from 2005 to 2010, our local air quality monitoring stations recorded a decrease in the concentrations of sulphur dioxide (SO2) and respirable suspended particulate (RSP) by 45% and 18% respectively. Due to the increase in the maritime activities in Hong Kong and the PRD Region, emissions from the marine vessels have gradually become another source of air pollution. We need to step up our effort to reduce emissions from this source in order to further improve our air quality. The reply to the questions raised by the Hon James To is as follows:

(a) At present, the light diesel supplied on the local market to marine vessels contains not more than 0.5% sulphur. If the sulphur content is capped at 0.1%, the territory-wide emissions of SO2 and RSP will be reduced by around 3%. We have thus completed a trial of powering local ferries with ultra low sulphurdiesel and will report on the trial findings and consult the Panel about improving the quality of vessel fuels sold locally at the meeting of the Legislative Council Panel on Environmental Affairs (the Panel) on December 21.Meanwhile, we have started seeking relevant stakeholders’ views on this proposal.

As for the introduction of statutory control on the emissions of non-road mobile sources (including mobile machinery used at container terminals, airport, construction sites, etc.), we have consulted the trades on our proposal. We plan to report to the Panel on the outcome of the consultation and consult it on the final proposal in the first quarter of 2012. Subject to the Panel’s support, we shall commence the necessary legislative procedures for implementing the control proposal which is expected to complete within the 2012-13 legislative session.

Emissions from non-road mobile machinery currently account for about 7% (6,800tonnes) and 11% (600 tonnes) of the local emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and RSP respectively. If all non-road mobile machinery in local use are replaced with ones meeting the proposed emission standards, local emissions of NOx and RSP can be reduced by 4.7% (4,500 tonnes) and 9% (500 tonnes) respectively. It will also help mitigate the environmental nuisance generated at container terminals and construction sites near the urban centres.

(b) Hong Kong, Macao and the Mainland control marine emissions within their waters through implementing the requirements of the Annex VI to the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships promulgated by the International Maritime Organisation. These include restriction of fuelsulphur contents, control of emission of NOx and ozone-depleting substances, and regulation of shipboard incineration.

We have started discussion with the relevant authorities of Guangdong, Shenzhen and Macao on the regional cooperation initiatives on reducing marine emissions within the PRD waters set out in the 2011 Policy Address. We will jointly explore the feasibility of these initiatives and the way to take them forward.Meanwhile, we are also consulting the local stakeholders, including the oil companies, ship owners and the shipping industry about the proposed control initiatives, which would help us consider and work out the implementation timetable as soon as possible.

(c) and (d) The design of the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal has already made provisions for the use of onshore power supply (OPS) in future. We will keep closely monitoring the progress in the development of internationally harmonized technical standards for OPS and the trend of other overseas ports in using OPS, with a view to installing relevant facilities in the cruise terminal as soon as possible.

As for container terminals, since container vessels have a shorter berthing time, switching to low-sulphur diesel is more cost-effective than using OPS. We will continue to listen to the views of the industry and closely monitor the trend of overseas container terminals in using OPS to decide whether there is a need to require container terminals to install relevant facilities.

(e) The Marine Department has not found any increasing trend of non-compliance cases of vessels since implementation of the Merchant Shipping (Prevention of Air Pollution) Regulation in 2008. Dark smoke emission from ocean-going vessels is regulated under the Shipping and Port Control Ordinance, whereas that from local vessels is regulated under the Merchant Shipping (Local Vessels) Ordinance. As at November 2011, the Marine Department has carried out around 3 600 surprise inspections (on average 330 inspections per month) on vessels in Hong Kong waters in relation to air pollution. Since 2008, the Marine Department has prosecuted five vessels for excessive emission of dark smoke causing nuisance. All of these vessels were convicted and the level of fine for each case ranged from HK$500 to HK$2,500.

(f) The Chief Executive proposed the use of clean fuels for marine vessels in this year’s Policy Address. The proposed measures include:

(i) explore with the governments of Guangdong, Shenzhen and Macao the feasibility of requiring ocean-going vessels to switch to low-sulphur fuel while berthing at ports of Hong Kong and the PRD;

(ii) explore with the governments of Guangdong, Shenzhen and Macao setting up an Emission Control Area in PRD waters over the longer term; and

(iii) study in collaboration with the relevant trades the feasibility of improving the quality of vessel fuels sold locally to reduce emissions from vessels.

We are actively following up the above proposed measures in order to reduce vessel emissions.

On the other hand, many major ship liners in Hong Kong signed up to the Fair Winds Charter (the Charter) in January this year, committing to switching to lowsulphur fuel as far as possible when berthing in Hong Kong waters within 2011 and 2012. The Charter has not only reduced the emissions generated from the marine vessels around the port area, but also demonstrated the feasibility of fuel switch in Hong Kong waters, which would help us explore extending fuel switch to the whole PRD waters.

Regarding other measures to reduce emissions from container terminals, it is now a statutory requirement that the sulphur content of diesel used by non-road mobile sources (including mobile machinery and non-road vehicles) at container terminals must not exceed 50ppm (i.e. ultra low sulphur diesel). Emission reduction is also attained by switching most quay cranes to electric power, and converting more than half of the diesel-driven gantry cranes into electric or hybrid cranes. In addition, some non-road vehicles used at container terminals have been replaced by electric or hybrid models to help improve the air quality and environment of the port.

Ends/Wednesday, December 14, 2011
Issued at HKT 12:27