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.