Local authorities say under tweaks, levels of the harmful pollutant from marine sector can be cut by 6,340 tonnes by 2020, among other improvements
The tweak in regulations is set to align with Pearl River Delta emissions control which will take effect on the national level in January 2019.
On Monday, authorities told the Advisory Council on the Environment the move would help cut harmful sulphur dioxide emissions from the marine sector by about 6,340 tonnes and respirable particulates – called PM10 – by about 710 tonnes by 2020.
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Both the Shipowners Association and the Liner Shipping Association have expressed support for the move as it would improve air quality and ensure a uniform policy for operators.
Under the new proposal, all marine vessels – naval or commercial ones outfitted with high emissions control technology are exempted – will have to burn fuel with sulphur content below 0.5 per cent by 2019.
Environmental advisors on Monday urged the government to tighten the standard to 0.1 per cent to avoid the trouble of having to alter it again later. The Ministry of Transport said it would assess this or introduce other control measures at the end of 2019.
“Diesel standards for local vessels including river vessels are already capped below 0.05 per cent,” Polytechnic University transport policy expert and council member Dr Hung Wing-tat said.
“I suspect China will adopt [the 0.1 per cent standard] too … and if they do, they can [in theory] announce it one day and do it the next. Our legislative process is more complicated.”
During industry consultations that started in March, business groups also supported a stricter standard.
“In fact, we understand that ocean-going vessels generally carry 0.1 per cent compliant fuel on board already to meet American and European standards,” General Chamber of Commerce chief Shirley Yuen wrote in a letter to the department.
Dave Ho Tak-yin, acting department assistant director for air policy, said legislative flexibility would be provided but stressed that it made no sense for Hong Kong to adopt separate standards from regional mainland ports.
The department, which aims to table the new regulation by mid-2018, will consult the Legislative Council panel on environmental affairs this month.
Since the 1990s, shipping and power generation have been the largest contributor of sulphur emissions in the city.