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Ship Emissions 3rd Largest Air Pollution Source in China

Ship emissions now remain the third largest source of air pollution in China, following vehicles exhaust and factory emissions.

According to the Economic Information Daily, the emission of a ship that uses fuels with 3.5% sulphur discharge is tantamount to that of 210 thousand trucks per day. The pollutants contain dozens of toxic chemicals that pose critical damage to people’s health.

Right now, China’s marine fuel quality lags behind that of major developed countries.

Industry observers suggest the establishment of an inter-regional mechanism to jointly tackle the problem.

Hong Kong is the first Chinese city to take strong actions against ship emissions, where half of air pollution was produced by marine vessels. In 2013, Hong Kong chief executive C. Y. Leung called for “green transport”, requiring vessels to use low-sulphur diesel in the Pearl River Delta ports.

Meanwhile in Shenzhen, over 100 container vessels from 15 shipping enterprises have participated in a project aiming to subsidize ships using low sulfur fuel or shore power.

In June, Chinese authorities said it was considering a new standard in regards to the country’s marine fuel quality and usage.

Last year, China rolled out its Air Pollution Action Plan, declaring a war against the country’s long-existing air pollution problem.

Bridging the (dirty) gap

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Do the new regulations on berthing ships in Hong Kong go far enough to curb pollution?

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Pollution drops near Hong Kong container port as ships switch to cleaner fuel, green group says

Ernest Kao

Sulphur pollution near one of Hong Kong’s busiest shipping lanes fell markedly in the first week of this month as a result of new regulations mandating ocean-going vessels switch to cleaner fuel, according to the Clean Air Network.

Average 24-hour concentrations of toxic sulphur dioxide (SO2) in Kwai Chung were recorded at 12 micrograms per cubic metre of air between July 1 – the day the mandate went into effect – and Tuesday.

By comparison, the average 24-hour SO2 concentration in the same period last year was 34 micrograms per cubic metre and 23 micrograms per cubic metre the year before that.

The new rule requires all ocean-bound vessels from tugboats to container ships to switch to 0.5 per cent sulphur marine fuel when berthing in the city.

Kwai Chung, which together with Tsing Yi forms Kwai Tsing district, is located near the Kwai Chung container port – the world’s fourth biggest in terms of throughput.

Previous studies have found the area to be the worst hit district in the city from ship pollution. Ships are the biggest source of SO2 in the city, followed by power generation.

In terms of roadside pollution, average levels of nitrogen dioxide, suspended particulates and ozone all dropped in the first half of the year.

But average concentrations of microscopic particulate matters suspended in the air, or PM, rose in Tuen Mun, Tung Chung, Causeway Bay and Mong Kok in the same period. Particulates can penetrate into the lungs and cause respiratory and cardiovascular problems.

All five major pollutants measured at 11 out of 15 of the city’s air quality monitoring stations exceeded the World Health Organisation’s guidelines.

Other than in Kwai Chung, Kwun Tong and Tai Po, concentrations of ozone – an indicator of regional air quality –recorded lower than average recordings at all ambient monitoring stations in the first six months of the year.

But the number of times ozone levels exceeded WHO guidelines over eight-hour periods rose at all stations in the same period.

Region should follow Hong Kong’s example on cleaner fuel for vessels

SCMP Editorial

Hong Kong has taken another positive step in fighting air pollution. Since July 1, ocean-going vessels have been required to switch to low-sulphur fuel within local waters under a new law to improve air quality. Emissions of sulphur and respirable suspended particles of 10 microns or less are expected to fall by 12 per cent and 6 per cent as a result. The health risks for those living near container ports and coastal areas will also be lowered.

Credit goes to the government and environmentalists for making this happen. Emissions at sea are known to be a major cause of air pollution. Yet weak marine shipping laws mean the problem has not previously been dealt with seriously. It was not until recent years that vessels were required to switch to less-polluting fuels while berthing in the city under a pilot scheme. This became mandatory under the new law, which allows for a maximum jail term of six months and a HK$200,000 fine for non-compliance.

But air pollution knows no boundaries. Just like the need for collective efforts to keep the neighbourhood clean, it does not help when other cities in the Pearl River Delta are not doing their part. It’s time we convinced our neighbours to do the same and adopt a region-wide fuel standard for vessels. That would mean establishing an emissions control area, within which vessels have to use low-sulphur fuel.

The importance of getting Guangdong and others on board to improve air quality has long been recognised. The joint emission reduction targets set out in the Hong Kong-Guangdong Cooperation Conference, a forum on cross-border issues, are an example. Indeed, the issue of reducing emissions by vessels in the delta region was raised at the conference a few years ago, with both sides pledging to further explore the feasibility of adopting joint fuel standards. Now that we have made efforts to clear up our skies, the next step is to urge our neighbours to follow suit. This is not just for Hongkongers, but also for the tens of millions of people living in the delta region.

Berthing ships must use fuel with low sulphur under new Hong Kong law

New law forces all vessels berthing in the city to switch to cleaner fuel, but now the focus shifts to consistency throughout the Pearl River Delta

Berthing ships must use fuel with low sulphur under new Hong Kong law

Berthing ships must use fuel with low sulphur under new Hong Kong law

An anti-pollution law under which all ocean-going vessels must be powered by low-sulphur fuel while berthing in Hong Kong took effect yesterday, accompanied by calls to look ahead to the next step – pressuring other regional ports to follow suit.

The city now makes it compulsory for berthing ocean-bound vessels to use fuel with sulphur content no higher than 0.5 per cent, lower than the international cap of 3.5 per cent.

In return, shipowners save half of their berthing fees through government subsidies.

The move is expected to cut emissions of sulphur and respirable suspended particles of 10 microns or less by 12 per cent and 6 per cent, respectively, according to the Environmental Protection Department – improvements in air quality that one think tank estimates will lead to 44 per cent fewer premature deaths each year.

With the new law now in place, it is time to shift the focus to setting up an emissions control area (ECA) for the Pearl River Delta region, said Simon Ng Ka-wing, chief research officer for the think tank, Civic Exchange.

“There needs to be a level playing field for the entire region,” Ng said. “Shenzhen already has an incentive scheme and hopefully Guangzhou will be pressured to do something, too.”

He said the region’s emissions data was being updated and would provide more justification for an ECA.

Civic Exchange helped pave the way for a local Fair Winds Charter, launched in 2011.

Under the voluntary scheme, 3,000 ocean vessels from 17 freight lines switch to low-sulphur fuel at berth each year, equivalent to roughly 10 per cent of total annual port calls.

With the new mandate, all 30,000 ocean-going ships that berth in Hong Kong yearly must comply, the department said.

Retired Liner Shipping Association chairman Peter Ng Yee-chun agreed a region-wide fuel standard would make things easier for shipping operators.

If an ECA was the ultimate goal, he said, all ships in the region should adopt a consistent standard of 0.1 per cent sulphur in their fuel, the latest cap for recognised ECAs.

This idea was echoed by Shippers’ Council chairman Willy Lin Sun-mo. “It would be much better for shippers, if Shenzhen or Guangzhou could adopt the same regulation for a consistency of regional standards,” he said.

Subsidies to help the industry comply end in 2018, and the question is how to transfer the cost, eventually, to the consumer. Current oil prices make 0.5 sulphur fuel 20 per cent more expensive than regular heavy fuel.

“All parties need to shoulder the cost burden,” Peter Ng said.

Potential for shore-side electricity

AcidNews June 2015

Connecting ships at berth to onshore power will provide health and environmental benefits by reducing air pollution, greenhouse gases and noise.

A recent study by Ecofys on behalf of the European Commission’s DG CLIMA has investigated the potential for shore-side electricity (SSE) in Europe, including the barriers to implementation, and provides recommendations on policy action that the Commission could take to accelerate the implementation of SSE in European harbours.

When at berth, ships typically burn fuel oil in their auxiliary engines to generate electrical power for communications, lighting, ventilation and other onboard equipment. Ships may also burn fuel oil in boilers, for instance to  supply hot water and heating and to prevent the heavy fuel oil from solidifying.

This combustion of fuel oil results in emissions of air pollutants, including the main greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, in the port areas, which are often located in or near cities. SSE is an option for reducing unwanted environmental impacts of ships at berth.

According to the study’s mapping of the health benefits of SSE, ports in the UK, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Italy, Greece and the Mediterranean islands would gain large benefits from NOx reductions.

Concerning SO2, the biggest benefits of SSE are to be found in the Mediterranean area, Ireland and the western part of the UK.

Current SSE projects show that there can be a business case for all parties, says the study. The initial investment for ship owners and in ports is substantial, but can be recouped from lower operating costs.

Furthermore, huge benefits have been documented in terms of reductions in noise and air pollutant emissions.

The study estimates that if all seagoing and inland ships in European harbours in 2020 were to use SSE to cover their energy demand at berth, they would consume 3,543 GWh annually, equivalent to 0.1 per cent of the electricity consumption of Europe as a whole in 2012. In general, the increase in demand is not seen as problematic for the electricity grid, especially considering that expanding the use of SSE is a medium to long-term process.

The study: Potential for Shore Side Electricity in Europe (January 2015). By Ecofys, the Netherlands.

Downloadable from:

Efficiency standards for ships too easy to meet

AcidNews June 2015

CE Delft has released a study, commissioned by Brussels-based NGOs Seas at Risk and Transport & Environment, which calculated the Estimated Index Values (EIVs) of new ships built between 2009 and 2014, and concluded that the majority of container and general cargo ships built in recent years already meet the IMO’s Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) standards set for 2020.

Of the ships in the study that were built in 2014, some 34 per cent of container ships and 43 per cent of general cargo ships also met the EEDI target for 2030.

The study confirms that the EEDI targets need substantial revision since the current standards fall short on reflecting best practice or the pace with which improvements in efficiency can be brought about.

The study identified a large variation in the EIV of ships of similar type and size, indicating that large additional fuel savings and associated reductions in CO2 emissions would be possible if all ships were built to the best available designs and technologies.

The EIV improvements have coincided with increases in average design speed and decreases in main engine power for a number of ship categories, which suggests an improvement in hull or propulsion efficiency. The findings also suggest that, if design speeds were kept constant, larger improvements in design efficiency would have been possible.

More information at:

New ships less fuel efficient than those built in 1990

AcidNews June 2015

Ships are significantly less energy-efficient today than in 1990, calling for greater steps in regulation and binding energy efficiency standards for the shipping sector.

New ships built in 2013 were on average 10 per cent less fuel-efficient than those built in 1990, according to a new study, “Historical trends in ship design efficiency”, by CE Delft. On average, those earlier ships already beat the so-called “Energy Efficiency Design Index” standard that the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has set for new ships built in 2020.

This first-ever study of the historical trend in the design efficiency of new ships, commissioned by Seas At Risk and Transport & Environment, finds that bulk carriers, tankers, and container ships built in 2013 were on average 12, 8 and 8 per cent less fuel efficient respectively than those built in 1990.

The findings are particularly valuable as they starkly contradict claims that shipping has been constantly improving its environmental performance. They also demonstrate that market forces cannot by themselves lead to more fuel-efficient ships being built and that more regulation is necessary as well as a much stricter Energy Efficiency Design Index standard. It is interesting that at a time when ships were most energy efficient the price of oil was proportionally much cheaper than today (around $25 vs $100 per barrel, in today’s prices).

John Maggs, policy advisor at Seas At Risk and president of the Clean Shipping Coalition, said: “Now we know that we cannot rely on rising fuel prices, other market forces or the good intentions of industry to solve shipping’s climate problem. Instead we need a clear and ambitious target for reducing ship greenhouse gas emissions and legally binding measures to get us there.”

The IMO will review the stringency levels of its Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) – the efficiency standards for new ships – during a meeting of its Marine Environmental Protection Committee (MEPC) in London in May 2015.

Information sources:

CE Delft study:

Press release from Transport and Environment:

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):