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,