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LCQ13:Air quality within HK waters

Following is the question by the Hon James To and a written reply by the Secretary for Economic Development and Labour, Mr Stephen Ip, in the Legislative Council today (December 13):


     A recent study conducted by the academics finds that the ambient sulphur dioxide concentration above the sea of West Kowloon opposite to the Kwai Chung Container Terminals (KCCT) is abnormally high on certain days, and the black smoke emitted from cargo ships using high-sulphur diesel is suspected to be the main source of pollutants.  The Government informed the Panel on Economic Services of this Council in February this year that the Administration planned to enact three pieces of subsidiary legislation under the Merchant Shipping (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Ordinance (Cap. 413) in order to implement the requirements on regulating the emission of pollutants from vessels as stipulated in the relevant international covenants.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) as there are many screen-like buildings on both sides of the Victoria Harbour (the Harbour), whether the general and roadside air monitoring stations currently set up on land by the Environmental Protection Department can accurately measure the concentration of pollutants over the Harbour; if not, how the Government monitors the situation of pollution over the Harbour;

(b) whether the Government has studied the air pollution problem arising from the operation of KCCT and that caused by vessels in the Harbour; if it has, of the results of its study;

(c) of the earliest time the Government expects that the subsidiary legislation will be gazetted; and

(d) whether, before enacting the subsidiary legislation, the Government will reduce the emission of air pollutants from vessels by administrative means?


Madam President,

(a) The Environmental Protection Department (EPD) has established an air quality monitoring network with 14 monitoring stations to measure the air quality of Hong Kong.  Eleven of these stations are general stations set up on roofs of 4 to 6-storey buildings which provide information on air quality to which the public is generally exposed.  Three are roadside stations which measure representative air quality at busy roads.  Of the general stations, the Tsuen Wan, Kwai Chung, Sham Shui Po, Kwun Tong, Eastern and Central/Western stations are located along the Victoria Harbour and nearby areas.  They can accurately monitor air quality impacts caused by air pollutants, including those from the Victoria Harbour.

(b) The Government has not specifically studied air pollution impacts arising from the operation of the Kwai Chung Container Terminals.  EPD, however, compiles inventory of air pollutants emitted in Hong Kong on a yearly basis.  In 2004, marine vessels contributed 6%, 4% 17% and 0.7% respectively of all particulates, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds emissions in Hong Kong.

(c) According to present progress, it is expected that the three pieces of subsidiary legislation to be made under the Merchant Shipping (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Ordinance  will be published in the gazette for introduction into the Legislative Council in the first half of 2007.

(d) The Government currently controls smoke emission from vessels under the Shipping and Port Control Ordinance. Marine Department (MD) has adopted the Ringelmann Chart as an objective standard for gauging smoke emission from vessels since October 2005.  Marine Department officers also monitor the exhaust of vessels and conduct spot checks on vessels within Hong Kong waters.   When there is sufficient evidence of excessive smoke emission, Marine Department will initiate prosecution under the Shipping and Port Control Ordinance.

Ends/Wednesday, December 13, 2006
Issued at HKT 11:28