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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):

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