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Air Pollution

Surprise! The Air Near Major Ports Is Bad for Kids

Air pollution is an insidious thing. The particulate matter that streams out of tailpipes and power plants contains an extensive list of contaminants—everything from carcinogens to endocrine-disrupting compounds—in addition to the tiny specks of soot we’ve come to associate with the higher rates of asthma and other respiratory disorders seen in populations that live near major highways or industrial facilities. Basically, every part of it is bad for you, and researchers just found two more toxins to add to the list: nickel and vanadium.

According to as-yet-unpublished research that is being presented Tuesday at the American Thoracic Society’s 2016 international conference, the nickel and vanadium found in the exceptionally fine-grained class of air pollution called PM2.5 damages children’s developing lungs. And in Southern California, where the research was conducted, these toxins mainly appear in the air pollution that comes from shipping vessels.

Because their diameter is so small (2.5 microns, or 1/120th the width of a strand of human hair), PM2.5 particles are known to make their way down into the farthest reaches of the lungs and even slip into the bloodstream. Previous research has shown that when a woman is exposed to PM2.5 in pregnancy, the particles can reach her fetus, whose lungs may grow fewer alveoli, the grape-like clusters in which air is taken and oxygen is separated and diffused to the blood. Her baby, then, may be born with diminished lung capacity, or a greater proclivity toward asthma. (Also, because evidence suggests that lungs continue to develop until we’re about 25 years old, air pollution may work to stunt alveoli development the entire time.)

For this latest research, Robert Urman, a researcher from the University of Southern California, and his co-authors assessed health records from 1,911 elementary school children from various communities in Southern California. Among them, the highest levels of nickel and vanadium in the air were found in Long Beach, California, where cargo chips and other vessels burn fuel oil while leaving and entering the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, which combined is the largest seaport in the United States.

“When we analyzed the data, we found that teenaged children in the most polluted communities had an estimated decrease of approximately four percent in their lung function compared to similar children in the least polluted communities,” Urman said in a statement.

A large-scale study last year found that when air pollution is reduced, children’s lung function improves significantly in the surrounding community. “The National Ambient Air Quality Standards currently regulate PM2.5 mass as a whole,” Urman says, but he adds that more research is needed to understand what components of air pollution are particularly bad for children’s lungs, so risk assessments and regulations can be tailored to target them. “If we could establish a link between these components and health-related outcomes, then more targeted regulations could be enacted to better protect the health of the general population.”

Bracing seaside air could carry deadly pollution from ships

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Transforming the oil recycling industry: Hong Kong shipping magnate’s innovation to reduce air pollution

A Hong Kong shipping magnate is making a foray into the mainland market for greener recycled engine oils following nearly a decade of refining research in the city.

Fenwick Shipping boss Antony Marden said demand was growing on the mainland for high-quality base oils that were not just “strained through a sock”, de-watered, burned and sold off as heavily polluting and illegal low-grade diesel.

“About 70 to 80 per cent of lube oil is collected in China because it is too valuable to be thrown down the drain,” said Marden, whose company CleanOil Investment opens its first re-refining plant in Zhuhai’s Gaolan petrochemicals zone today.

“But what happens to it is that most of it is re-refined in the most basic way, which has a low-rate of recovery and creates high secondary pollution as it is most always just burned, polluting the air.”

The company’s patented closed-loop technology will be able to reap a 90 per cent recovery rate from the feedstock, which is about a third higher than the industry standard. It will do so virtually free of any waste emissions.

A four-stage process extracts a large amounts of impurities from the feedstock by filtering and vacuum flashing before the residual substances or spent additives left behind are extracted. The final product is a stable “group II” base, free of hazardous chemicals and gases, which can be re-refined indefinitely.

About 90 per cent of the company’s products will be sold to blenders and refiners on the mainland, while the rest will be marketed and sold under the brand CleanOil. It will not be sold in Hong Kong.

The company is not a first mover – major mainland oil firms are producing similar products – but Marden claims that this area is still a “blind spot” among his competitors, especially in southern provinces.

Marden, who partnered with Jebsen Industrial two and a half years ago to build the US$40 million state-of-the-art Zhuhai plant, said he aimed to roll out another four or five bigger plants in about six months to a year.

The company had been running a plant in Hong Kong’s Yuen Long area for about 10 years before it had “served its purpose” as an R&D centre and demolished two years ago.

Marden admitted that it had taken longer than expected to set up the venture but it had been a market he had been eyeing for a while as the mainland automobile market continued to grow.

“I’m a shipowner and it’s a cyclical business,” Marden said. “I thought I would try something different…I believe anything good for the environment and you can make money with, has got to be a win-win situation.”

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Hong Kong and Dubai: Air emission standards

Hong Kong

In recent years there has been more focus on air borne pollution in Hong Kong and in an effort to control the emission of dark smoke from vessels, Hong Kong has recently amended its legislation.

As per section 50 of the Shipping and Port Control Ordinance (Cap 313) and Section 51 of the Merchant Shipping (Local Vessels) Ordinance (Cap. 548), it is now an offence for any vessel in Hong Kong waters to emit dark smoke for 3 minutes or more continuously at any one time. These legislative changes were gazetted on 18 July 2014 and came into effect immediately.

The Shipping and Port Control Ordinance regulates dark smoke emission from ocean-going vessels, whereas the Merchant Shipping (Local Vessels) Ordinance applies to local vessels.

Dark smoke is defined as smoke which is “dark as or darker than shade 2 on the Ringelmann chart”. The Ringelmann chart has 5 shades ranging from 0 (clear) to 5 (black). The darker the smoke, the more polluting it is.

Sample of the Ringelmann Chart - to be used for reference only, and not as a device for dark smoke measurement Source: Hong Kong Marine Department Notice No. 92 of 2014

Sample of the Ringelmann Chart – to be used for reference only, and not as a device for dark smoke measurement
Source: Hong Kong Marine Department Notice No. 92 of 2014

A vessel found to be in contravention is liable to a fine of HK 25,000 on first conviction and a fine of HK 50,000 for any subsequent conviction. In the case of local vessels, the fines are set at HK 10,000 on first conviction and HK 25,000 for any subsequent conviction. The owner of the vessel, his agent and the master are each deemed to have committed the offence and thus all are required to exercise due diligence to maintain the engine and fuel system on-board in a good condition.

While Hong Kong can record up to 400,000 vessel movements a year, the legislation confers power on authorized agents to direct local vessels to be checked if they have reasonable grounds to suspect the vessel is in contravention.


The government of Dubai issued a statement on 2 July 2014 calling all vessels to ensure strict compliance with its rules on air emissions while in port. All vessels calling DP World/ PCFC ports in Dubai are required to comply with the local PCFC-EHS Ports and Maritime Regulations in addition to the IMO Marpol Annex VI Regulations in an effort to curb air pollution in the area.

The statement issued advises vessels to refrain from unsafe practices causing air pollution such as:

· Ships emitting black/grey exhaust smoke
· Incineration during port stay
· Using fuel oil not in line with Marpol Annex VI requirements

Any contravention to these requirements may result in the imposition of appropriate sanctions including fines.

In addition, all vessels are reminded to maintain their engines and other equipment in good conditions so as to prevent the possibility of environmental pollution. All vessels are also reminded to ensure their IAPP (International Air Pollution Prevention) certificate is valid in all aspects.

Find more information on the IMO Marpol Annex VI Regulations here.

For further information, members are asked to contact the Association:

Nikita Lulla
Claims Assistant, Skuld Hong Kong

Christian Ott
Vice President Head of Claims, Skuld Singapore Branch
Loss Prevention and Recurring Claims Team Leader

Clean marine fuel a step forward

Activists tend to remember landmark victories in the fight against air pollution. But most people would be surprised to hear that it is 25 years since the government took a policy decision which, according to researchers, made a difference to air quality overnight. That was to impose a cap on the sulphur content of industrial fuel used in factories. The year was 1990. Ever since, sadly, other pollution sources have undermined air quality. But a similar landmark victory may not be far off, according to a think tank that specialises in environmental issues. Simon Ng Ka-wing, chief research officer at Civic Exchange, says this is likely when it becomes mandatory for ocean-going vessels to use low-sulphur marine diesel fuel when berthing in Hong Kong, under a proposed law that activists hope will take effect as early as July. Although ship emissions account for only 18 per cent (CTA: actually 50% SO2 in 2012 !) of sulphur dioxide in the city’s air, they penetrate residential areas easily.

As with the factories in 1990, Ng expects the policy to have a dramatic effect because sulphur emissions will be cut by almost 80 per cent immediately. This is the kind of boost to its environmental credentials the city needs, given the importance of good air quality in attracting the talented people and tourists so important to its economy. The latest data shows that measures such as phasing out dirty diesel vehicles and buses that fail even outdated European emission standards are having a welcome impact. But average concentrations of pollutants remain too high, especially for ozone.

The ultimate goal of tackling marine diesel emissions in Hong Kong is a recognised clean-fuel emissions control area (ECA) for the Pearl River Delta, like those in North America, the Baltic Sea and the North Sea. That would depend on participation of Guangdong ports and support from Beijing in the International Maritime Organisation. Meanwhile, if a mandatory cap were to have the predicted dramatic effect, it should prompt the government to redouble efforts to upgrade local bus and truck fleets to combat roadside air pollution.

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Hong Kong to mandate OGVs to use compliant fuels while berthing

Hong Kong Government is to bring into effect a new regulation mandating the use of clean fuels by ocean-going vessels (OGVs) while at berth, in order to reduce emissions.

The Air Pollution Control (Ocean Going Vessels) (Fuel at Berth) Regulation will be gazetted this week, the government said.

With this regulation, OGVs will be required to use low-sulphur marine fuel with sulphur content of less than 0.5%, liquefied natural gas, and any other fuels approved by the Director of Environmental Protection.

An Environmental Protection Department spokesman said: “The regulation prohibits OGVs from using any fuel other than compliant fuel while at berth in Hong Kong, except during the first hour after arrival and the last hour before departure.

“If an OGV uses technology that can achieve the same or less emission of sulphur dioxide (SO2) when compared with using low-sulphur marine fuel, the OGV may be exempted from switching to compliant fuel.”

“If an OGV uses technology that can achieve the same or less emission of SO2 [as] low-sulphur marine fuel, the OGV may be exempted.”

The majority of OGVs operate on heavy fuel oil with an average sulphur content of 2.6%, and the estimated SO2 emissions of an OGV at berth is about 40% of the total during its stay in Hong Kong.

This new development is expected to minimise the total emissions of SO2 and respirable suspended particulates by 12% and 6% respectively.

After implementation of this rule, powering an OGV using non-compliant fuel while at berth in Hong Kong will incur a maximum fine of $200,000 and imprisonment for six months.

The government also asked shipmasters and ship owners to record the date and time of fuel switching and keep the relevant records for three years, adding that non-compliance will attract a maximum fine of $50,000 and imprisonment for three months.

Air Pollution Control (Ocean Going Vessels) (Fuel at Berth) Regulation

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The Demise of the Fair Winds Charter

Hong Kong’s voluntary Fair Winds Charter aimed at reducing air emissions in port officially expired at the end of the year. It is unlikely to be renewed.

Regulations mandating emission control measures in port, and thus negating the need for the Charter, are late, but still eagerly anticipated. For Arthur Bowring, managing director of the Hong Kong Shipowners Association (HKSA), they will create a fair competitive environment that doesn’t penalize shipowners making an effort to reduce SOx emissions.

The legislation for Hong Kong was supposed to be ready for January 1,” says Bowring. “The container industry especially is highly competitive, and if you’ve got carriers paying $2 million more each year for the pleasure of switching fuel, they’re not going to last long in business. So it’s important to maintain a level playing field between the carriers in Hong Kong. That’s why we want the legislation, but we do also want the initiative to spread up into the rest of the Pearl River delta to keep the playing field level for Hong Kong as a port.”

The Charter, reaffirmed for another year in February 2014, involves many of Hong Kong’s leading carriers and cruise liners and was initially brought about through the leadership of OOCL and Maersk. It is jointly sponsored by the HKSA and the Hong Kong Liner Shipping Association.

“The Hong Kong Shipowners Association and the Hong Kong Liner Shipping Association have for many years been deeply involved in the reduction of emissions from shipping, both in global negotiations and in local voluntary efforts. Locally, the Fair Winds Charter was developed by the industry in 2010, taking effect from 2011, as the world’s only truly voluntary scheme to reduce shipping emissions at berth and at anchor.”

In 2012, the charter was partially supported by the government with a three-year incentive scheme that means owners can claim around 40 percent of the cost of switching fuel.

Over time the shipping lines signed up to the charter have changed. “Some of the original members are no longer doing it because it’s made them too uncompetitive. They are waiting for the legislation,” says Bowring.

However, there have been some new companies coming in and some taking advantage of the arrangement without publically supporting the charter. “There is a fair amount of reluctance to be identified publically supporting the voluntary emissions cut. One reason for that, we believe, is because some carriers are concerned that if they are shown publically to be supporting Hong Kong, then other places might well demand they do the same thing, and that could really affect their bottom line tremendously.”

An infographic on the back page of the South China Morning Post at the end of last year sparked renewed focus on the shipping industry’s air emissions. Titled “A Heavy Toll” the infographic showed that approximately 50 percent of Hong Kong’s SOx emissions, 32 percent of NOx emissions and 37 percent of particulate matter came from the marine industry in 2012. The statistics may give the impression that the shipping industry is not aware of the effect of emissions on human health and is not doing anything to reduce them. This is not the case, Bowring says.

The industry fully supports, and is working with, the government in the development of the new regulation, he says. He cites statistics gathered last year that indicate that while only 13 percent of carriers were switching fuel, sulfur emissions around the port area were reduced by 8 percent.

In October last year, nearby Shenzhen in mainland China stated its intention to follow Hong Kong’s voluntary efforts with an incentive scheme, and to work with Hong Kong towards an application to the IMO by 2018 to create an emission control area for the Pearl River Delta.

China is home to seven of the world’s busiest container terminals, and Shenzhen became the third largest container port in the world in 2013. Most of the ocean-going vessels calling at Shenzhen burn heavy fuel oil. It is estimated that about 66 per cent of Shenzhen’s sulfur dioxide emissions, 14 per cent of nitrogen oxide, 6 per cent of fine particulates come from port and ship sources.

Shenzhen is planning to take the Hong Kong model a step further. It will refund 100 percent of the extra fuel costs if 0.1 percent or less sulfur fuel is burnt and 75 percent if it is less than 0.5 percent. However, the government is still developing the necessary framework to achieve these incentives.

It also plans to promote the use of shoreside power. Unlike Hong Kong, this can be fairly easily achieved as a lot of the terminals are relatively new, and many have been set up with cold ironing facilities.

There is some talk of making shoreside power available in Hong Kong too.

“Hong Kong’s efforts to reduce emissions from shipping are well recognized and appreciated by Beijing, and we understand that Shanghai is considering adopting emission control incentives, initially based on Hong Kong’s voluntary scheme, for the Yangtze River Delta,” says Bowring, but he believes countries further afield are also watching Hong Kong with interest.

He sees a significant difference between the regulations being developed in Hong Kong and those in, for example, Europe. In Europe, there is a fine attached to not switching to low sulfur fuels in designated areas. It’s not a particularly heavy fine, says Bowring, and may not provide a strong financial incentive for trying to avoid the system.

In contrast, the new regulations being developed for Hong Kong make deliberate non-compliance a criminal act for both the carrier and the ship’s master. A convicted master could face six months in jail and a $200,000 fine.

“We think it is a very effective sanction, and it is one that Europe is quite interested in,” says Bowring.

Meanwhile, the voluntary Charter continues on a business-as-usual basis, until the legislation is implemented. This is anticipated to be in the next six months.

“Shipping carries more than 90 per cent of world trade and, on a ton-km basis, is the most efficient and environmentally friendly form of transport. It is our intention to continue to reduce the environmental footprint of this essential industry sector,” says Bowring.

The opinions expressed herein are the author’s and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.

Bills Committee on Shipping Legislation – Control of Smoke Emission Amendment Bill 2014

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Daily Mail: How 16 ships create as much pollution as all the cars in the world

from Fred Pearce of the Daily Mail:

Award-winning science writer Fred Pearce – environmental consultant to New Scientist and author of Confessions Of An Eco Sinner – reveals that the super-ships that keep the West in everything from Christmas gifts to computers pump out killer chemicals linked to thousands of deaths because of the filthy fuel they use.

We’ve all noticed it. The filthy black smoke kicked out by funnels on cross-Channel ferries, cruise liners, container ships, oil tankers and even tugboats.

It looks foul, and leaves a brown haze across ports and shipping lanes. But what hasn’t been clear until now is that it is also a major killer, probably causing thousands of deaths in Britain alone.

As ships get bigger, the pollution is getting worse. The most staggering statistic of all is that just 16 of the world’s largest ships can produce as much lung-clogging sulphur pollution as all the world’s cars.

Because of their colossal engines, each as heavy as a small ship, these super-vessels use as much fuel as small power stations.

But, unlike power stations or cars, they can burn the cheapest, filthiest, high-sulphur fuel: the thick residues left behind in refineries after the lighter liquids have been taken. The stuff nobody on land is allowed to use.

Thanks to decisions taken in London by the body that polices world shipping, this pollution could kill as many as a million more people in the coming decade – even though a simple change in the rules could stop it.

There are now an estimated 100,000 ships on the seas, and the fleet is growing fast as goods are ferried in vast quantities from Asian industrial powerhouses to consumers in Europe and North America.

The recession has barely dented the trade. This Christmas, most of our presents will have come by super-ship from the Far East; ships such as the Emma Maersk and her seven sisters Evelyn, Eugen, Estelle, Ebba, Eleonora, Elly and Edith Maersk.

Each is a quarter of a mile long and can carry up to 14,000 full-size containers on their regular routes from China to Europe.

Emma – dubbed SS Santa by the media – brought Christmas presents to Europe in October and is now en route from Algeciras in Spain to Yantian in southern China, carrying containers full of our waste paper, plastic and electronics for recycling.

But it burns marine heavy fuel, or ‘bunker fuel’, which leaves behind a trail of potentially lethal chemicals: sulphur and smoke that have been linked to breathing problems, inflammation, cancer and heart disease.

James Corbett, of the University of Delaware, is an authority on ship emissions. He calculates a worldwide death toll of about 64,000 a year, of which 27,000 are in Europe. Britain is one of the worst-hit countries, with about 2,000 deaths from funnel fumes. Corbett predicts the global figure will rise to 87,000 deaths a year by 2012.

Part of the blame for this international scandal lies close to home.

In London, on the south bank of the Thames looking across at the Houses of Parliament, is the International Maritime Organisation, the UN body that polices the world’s shipping.

For decades, the IMO has rebuffed calls to clean up ship pollution. As a result, while it has long since been illegal to belch black, sulphur-laden smoke from power-station chimneys or lorry exhausts, shipping has kept its licence to pollute.

For 31 years, the IMO has operated a policy agreed by the 169 governments that make up the organisation which allows most ships to burn bunker fuel.

Christian Eyde Moller, boss of the DK shipping company in Rotterdam, recently described this as ‘just waste oil, basically what is left over after all the cleaner fuels have been extracted from crude oil. It’s tar, the same as asphalt. It’s the cheapest and dirtiest fuel in the world’.

Bunker fuel is also thick with sulphur. IMO rules allow ships to burn fuel containing up to 4.5 per cent sulphur. That is 4,500 times more than is allowed in car fuel in
the European Union. The sulphur comes out of ship funnels as tiny particles, and it is these that get deep into lungs.

Thanks to the IMO’s rules, the largest ships can each emit as much as 5,000 tons of sulphur in a year – the same as 50million typical cars, each emitting an average of 100 grams of sulphur a year.

With an estimated 800million cars driving around the planet, that means 16 super-ships can emit as much sulphur as the world fleet of cars.