Hong Kong’s under-secretary for the environment Christine Loh has said that she aims to make the whole of the Pearl River Delta (PRD) a low-emissions shipping zone.
The PRD area includes the ports of Hong Kong, Guangzhou and Shenzen; it accounts for 12% of everything that is shipped (measured by tonnage) and 60m people live there.
Loh told the International Association of Ports and Harbours (IAPH) conference in Hamburg: “You [in North America and Europe] are the ones with the Emission Control Areas (ECAs) and the Sulphur Emission Control Areas (SECAs). We want that too. Our longer-term aim, hopefully in a few years, is to make the whole PRD area an ECA.”
In January 2015, low-emission zones came into effect off the coasts of North America and Northern Europe which limited sulphur emissions to 0.1%. Most shipping companies adjusted to these new rules by burning cleaner but more expensive fuel.
Currently, outside of these zones, ships can burn fuel with a sulphur content of up to 3.5%. The International Maritime Organisation plans to reduce this to 0.5% by either 2020 or 2025, depending on the outcome of a review in 2018.
Speaking exclusively to CM, Loh said that her mission has a good chance of success as the Chinese government has been increasingly focused on improving the nation’s air quality. She qualified this by saying that it may take some years to happen.
Loh also said that the environmental protection agencies of Hong Kong and Shanghai have been exchanging information on how to monitor and reduce emissions.
On July 1 2015, Hong Kong will require all ships calling at its port to switch to low-sulphur fuel while at berth.
Loh said that shipping lines had asked the government to regulate on this to ensure a level playing field between competitors.
She added that the lines had asked her to speak to her counterparts in Guangdong province, to try and get ports like Guangzhou and Shenzen regulated in the same way.
At the conference, a vote was taken and 92% of delegates agreed that more environmental regulation is needed.