Hong Kong Once Again Leading the Way in the Fight to Control Shipping Emissions

[Contribution of marine emissions to the total emission profile of Hong Kong, 2012 data/The Prevention and Control of Shipping and Port Air Emissions in China]

This legislation is a clear demonstration that Hong Kong authorities are eager to combat air pollution from every source. Furthermore, this new rule "will make Hong Kong the first Asian jurisdiction to control its ports' ship emissions."

The regulation itself is quite comprehensive. Here are some highlights:

  • OGVs that are 500 tons or more must switch to marine fuel with sulfur levels 0.5% or lower, LNG, or other fuels approved by the air pollution control authority.
  • Vessels using technologies that can reduce SO2 as effectively as using 0.5% sulfur fuel may be exempted.
  • Vessels must complete the switch to low sulfur fuel within the first hour they are at berth.
  • The non-compliance penalty is a fine of HK $200,000 ($25,700) and a six-month jail term.

The regulation also includes comprehensive record-keeping requirements, empowers the government to require the submission of copies of those documents, and makes it an offense to submit false or misleading copies.

It's worth noting that the Hong Kong government, for fear that ships may shift to neighboring ports, also proposes to extend its existing fuel switching incentive program until 2018. The government has not yet released details about the extended incentive program, including whether a tighter eligibility criteria would be set for financial incentives (such as lowering the sulfur level from 0.5% to 0.1%).

Over the past several months, we are also seeing signs that China is taking seriously the issue of controlling ports and shipping emissions. The Shenzhen government, for example, followed Hong Kong in launching a comprehensive set of voluntary measures to promote clean port and shipping practices. Other municipal governments have also asked their ports to look into cleaning up port and shipping-related pollution. Now that Hong Kong has taken the pathbreaking step of enacting mandatory fuel switching requirements, we are confident that other governments in China, and indeed elsewhere in Asia, will be following Hong Kong's progress closely.

This blog post was coauthored by my colleagues Freda Fung and Winslow Robertson.

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