Ships urged to switch to cleaner fuel in Hong Kong

Research finds that SO2 deaths would fall by 91% if ships used 0.1% sulphur fuel.

Image credit:

Updated on 24 Sep 2012 09:17 GMT

A new Hong Kong report, entitled: "A Price Worth Paying: The Case for Controlling Marine Emissions in the Pearl River Delta" has been 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.

The study took five years to compile and is the first comprehensive study into the impact of emissions from container ships, cruise liners and oil tankers in the Pearl River Delta region, Hong Kong and Macau.

According to the report, which was financed by the New York-based Rockefeller Brothers Fund, sulphur dioxide emitted from ships leads to 519 people dying each year in the delta region, 75 percent of which are from Hong Kong. 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.

Civic Exchange's head of transport and sustainability research, Simon Ng Ka-wing, said: "Shipping is by far the most important source of sulphur dioxide pollution, more than that of vehicular emissions."

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

Emission hot spots were said to be 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.

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

At 15 micrograms per cubic metre, the inhabitants of Hong Kong inhale the highest level of the major pollutant, compared with 1-2 micrograms in Jiangmen, Guangzhou and Foshan, which are further inland.

"Secondly, the pollution is highest when the ships are at berth," Lau added.

Incentive Scheme

Starting from Wednesday, September 26, 2012, ocean-going vessels (OGVs) will be eligible for a 50 percent reduction in port facility and light dues if they switch to cleaner fuel in Hong Kong. The incentive scheme is expected to last for three years.

In order to qualify for the reduction, vessels will be required to switch from bunker oil to fuel with sulphur content of not more than 0.5 per cent for their auxiliary engines, boilers and generators while at berth in Hong Kong waters.

In 2011, approximately 32,500 calls to Hong Kong were recorded. They are subject to port facility and light dues based on their tonnage at $43 per 100 tonnes for every port call to Hong Kong.

Lau said the long-term goal was to designate local waters as an "emission control area" (ECA) and require ships within 185 kilometers of Hong Kong to use 0.1 percent suphur fuel. This would reduce deaths by 91 percent to 33 a year in Hong Kong, the research found.

To read the full report, please visit the following address below.