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September, 2012:

Low-sulphur diesel fuel for ships in Hong Kong should be compulsory

Submitted by admin on Sep 26th 2012, 12:00am

Comment›Insight & Opinion

SCMP Editorial

From today shipowners and operators can claim a 50 per cent reduction in port facility and light dues for switching to low-sulphur diesel while their vessels are docked in Hong Kong. The potential sacrifice of port revenue is a drop in the harbour when you consider that a five-year study attributes at least 519 deaths a year in the Pearl River Delta region, including 385 in Hong Kong, directly to sulphur dioxide emissions from ships, not counting deaths from the long-term health effects of exposure.

Making it compulsory to use low-sulphur fuel would have been a better option, as other major ports have found. Failing that, the three-year incentive programme is one government giveaway that few would object to, since it would save lives and help contain shipping costs. It follows the launch in 2010 of a purely voluntary scheme by 17 shipping lines that expires soon.

Given the co-operation so far of owners, operators and agents, it seems scarcely believable that the new scheme could be scuttled bygovernment red tape, such as applying afresh for the subsidy each time a vessel calls here, and lodging certified documents including engine log books by specific deadlines after a ship has departed. A shipowners’ spokesman asks whether they should pay money to comply with bureaucratic and sometimes impossible procedures to qualify for a subsidy that covers only part of the cost of the fuel switch.

While ship emissions are responsible for only 18 per cent of sulphur dioxide in the city’s air, they reach residential areas easily because they are released at a lower level. Think tank Civic Exchange estimates 3.8 million people are at risk of excessive exposure. Untangling the red tape seems like a case that should be delegated to new environment undersecretary Christine Loh Kung-wai, founder of think tank Civic Exchange, which conducted the five-year study of health effects jointly with the University of Hong Kong and the University of Science and Technology. Hopefully she can convince the government to make the fuel switch mandatory rather than risk losing shipowners’ co-operation with a half-baked solution.


Sulphur dioxide emissions

Low-sulphur fuel

Ship emissions

Source URL (retrieved on Sep 26th 2012, 5:52am):…/EA_Panel_20120528c_eng.pdf…/ea/…/ea0528cb1-1949-5-e.pdf

shipping in HKG waters contributes:

31% of Hong Kong’s respirable suspended particulates / 23% of SO2 / 27% of NOx

Ships urged to use cleaner fuel as 400 die each year

HK Standard

About 400 Hong Kong people a year die unnecessarily from breathing in bunker fuel from ocean-going vessels that come to the city, research by a think-tank has found out.

Mary Ann Benitez

Thursday, September 20, 2012

About 400 Hong Kong people a year die unnecessarily from breathing in bunker fuel from ocean-going vessels that come to the city, research by a think-tank has found out.

The report, titled A Price Worth Paying, took five years to produce and is the first comprehensive study of the impact of emissions from container ships, cruise liners and oil tankers in the Pearl River Delta region, Hong Kong and Macau.

The study, released by Civic Exchange, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology’s Atmospheric Research Center, and the University of Hong Kong’s School of Public Health, has called on the authorities to mandate that ships use cleaner fuels.

The report, financed by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, showed that sulfur dioxide emitted from ships results in 519 people dying each year in the delta region, and 75 percent of them are Hongkongers.

A total of 93 die in the inner delta region, including Macau and Shenzhen, and 42 in the outer delta region including Jiangmen and Huizhou.

Using government pollution and Hospital Authority data in 2008 and computer simulation, the team found that “shipping is by far the most important source of sulfur dioxide pollution, more than that of vehicular emissions,” Civic Exchange’s head of transport and sustainability research, Simon Ng Ka- wing, said.

Lai Hak-kan of the HKU School of Public Health said the 384 deaths in Hong Kong a year as a result of the pollution by ships is “a very conservative estimate.”

The team also found that 75 to 80 percent of all emissions, both within and beyond Hong Kong waters, came from container vessels, while cruise ships accounted for 10 percent. “If we are going to have bigger terminals to accommodate larger cruise ships, the emission problem will worsen,” Ng said.

Emission hot spots are the container terminals in Kwai Chung, Shekou and Yantian on the mainland, and the main fairways cutting through Hong Kong – the East Lamma Channel, Ma Wan Channel and the Urmston Road waterway going to Shekou.

“Shekou and Yantian are basically our neighbors,” he said.

“If there is a downwind, then a lot of pollutants are blown into Hong Kong.”

Alexis Lau Kai-hon, director of the HKUST Atmospheric Research Center, said: “The take-home message is really that Hong Kong is affected substantially by marine pollution.”

At 15 micrograms per cubic meter, Hongkongers inhale the highest level of the major pollutant, compared with 1-2 micrograms inJiangmen, Guangzhou and Foshan, which are further inland.

“Secondly, the pollution is highest when the ships are at berth,” Lau said.

The authorities should be asking ships to switch to 0.5 percent sulfur when berthed in Hong Kong waters, or mandate a 0.1 percent sulfur limit within local waters, he says.

The long-term goal is to designate local waters as an “emission control area” and require ships within 185 kilometers of Hong Kong to use 0.1 percent sulfur.

This would reduce deaths by 91 percent to 33 a year in the Hong Kong, the research found.

Shipping news

The shipping industry has had an easy ride compared with the airline industry when it comes to emission controls. Ocean-going ships are fuelled by probably the dirtiest fuel on the planet, which generally has a 3.5 per cent sulphur content. Hong Kong is one of the busiest ports in the world, with some 410,560 arrivals and departures last year. This comes at a price for the city’s people, who in 2008 had about 16,500 tons of sulphur dioxide dumped on them. This figure rises to 142,000 tons if we include emissions outside Hong Kong waters but which also affect the territory. These figures were arrived at by an audit undertaken by the University of Science and Technology. Sulphur dioxide emissions from shipping accounts for 18-20 per cent of the total amount by weight in Hong Kong, but has a disproportionately higher effect than other sources such as power stations, because it is emitted at much lower levels. These findings are contained in a report by the Civic Exchange published yesterday entitled “A Price Worth Paying: the case for controlling marine emissions in the Pearl River Delta”. The report also contains a study by the University of Hong Kong’s school of public health on the health impact of the emissions by ocean-going vessels. Unsurprisingly they are not good. About 385 avoidable deaths a year in Hong Kong are caused by short-term emissions from shipping. But it is likely that long-term exposure of one year and upwards could result in four to 10 times the number of deaths. This appalling situation can be resolved relatively easily, the Civic Exchange says. Setting up an emissions control area of 100 kilometres around Hong Kong in which vessels used fuel with a 0.1 per cent sulphur content would cut the emissions by 91 per cent but would require co-operation with Pearl River Delta authorities. Using 0.1 per cent sulphur fuel in Hong Kong waters would reduce sulphur dioxide emissions by 70 per cent. All it takes for this to come into effect is for the government to act. The last government was notorious for its inaction on environmental issues. The new government with its new line-up at the Environment Bureau seems poised for action. This is low-hanging fruit, so hopefully it will be grabbed soon.

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Source URL (retrieved on Sep 20th 2012, 5:34am):


HK suffers most deaths in region from ship pollution

Submitted by admin on Sep 20th 2012, 12:00am

News›Hong Kong


Ada Lee

Sulphur dioxide emissions from vessels cost lives of at least 365 people in city, says think tank, as it calls for stricter rules on fuels

Hong Kong has suffered the most from ship emissions in the Pearl River Delta, with locals accounting for 75 per cent of deaths related to sulphur dioxide released from vessels, a think tank found.

The air quality at Kwai Chung and Tsim Sha Tsui could be worst-hit by ship pollutants, researchers behind a five-year study by Civic Exchange suggest.

The think tank, founded by Christine Loh Kung-wai, now environment undersecretary, urged the city’s administration to be more proactive in tightening restrictions and to seek support from its mainland counterparts.

The city’s popular ship routes were partly to blame, because some vessels passed through Hong Kong waters on the way to twin ports in Shenzhen, the group said in its report.

“With so many ships berthing at the terminal in Kwai Chung, it’s like a small power plant,” said Simon Ng Ka-wing, Civic Exchange’s head of transport and sustainability research.

According to the Civic Exchange report, jointly issued with the University of Science and Technology and the University of Hong Kong, the city saw 385 of the 519 deaths directly related to sulphur dioxide from ship emissions in the region. The number of deaths in the inner Pearl River Delta region was 93, while that in the outer region was 42.

Dr Lai Hak-kan, an HKU research assistant professor who contributed to the report, said the figures were probably an underestimate, as the researchers had not taken long-term health effects of sulphur dioxide into account. The chemical can cause cancer and diseases in heart and blood vessels.

Ng said emissions from ships, mainly containers, were harmful although they accounted for only 18 per cent of sulphur dioxide in the city’s air. As it was released at a lower level, it could reach the residential areas easily.

The think tank suggested the government seek support from the central government and apply to the International Maritime Organisation to set up an emission control area, which would require ships to switch to 0.1 per cent sulphur fuel when they are within 100 nautical miles of Hong Kong. It said such a move could reduce deaths related to sulphur dioxide by 91 per cent.

It also suggested the government make it compulsory that ships switch their fuel to 0.5 per cent sulphur at berth. This suggestion follows the Fair Winds Charter which saw 18 shipping lines agree to do so two years ago. The pact will end in December.

Roberto Giannetta, secretary of the Hong Kong Liner Shipping Association, said it would cost a shipping line US$2 million a year to switch from conventional bunker fuel to low-sulphur clean fuel. He said it was uncommon for ships in Hong Kong to use low-sulphur fuel because it was not available in the city.



Ocean Pollution

Environmental impact of shipping

Source URL (retrieved on Sep 20th 2012, 5:27am):