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LCQ12: Emission control requirements for ocean-going vessels

     Following is a question by the Hon Paul Tse Wai-chun and a written reply by the Secretary for the Environment, Mr Edward Yau, at the Legislative Council meeting today (November 3):


     It has been reported that Hong Kong's legislation on controlling the use of "heavy oil" is too lax and vessels berthing at or passing through the port of Hong Kong are allowed to use "heavy oil" with sulphur content ranges as high as between 3.5% to 4%, which is of the poorest quality and most air-polluting (as against the sulphur content of only 0.001% for auto-fuel).  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a)given that it has been reported that at present Hong Kong is still using the legislation enacted 30 years ago which regulates dark smoke emission by vessels but not the sulphur content of vessel fuels, of the reasons why the Government has all along not amended the legislation to enhance control of the sulphur content of vessel fuels;

(b)of the policies proposed and the measures implemented by the Government in the past five years on controlling the problem of air pollution caused by vessels; and whether the Government had assessed in each of the past five years the impact of the pollution caused by vessels on local air quality; if it had, of the assessment results; if not, whether it will make the assessment as soon as possible; and

(c) given that it has been reported that at present, vessels entering waters such as the North Sea and the Baltic Sea must use fuel oil with sulphur content below 1.5%, whether the Government had, in the past five years, compared Hong Kong's legislation on controlling the use of vessel fuels with that in other economically developed countries, and whether it had reviewed such legislation and tightened the control of vessel fuels; if it had, of the progress of the review; if not, whether it will conduct the review immediately?



(a)The emission control requirements for ocean-going vessels are governed by international conventions under the International Maritime Organization (IMO). The Hong Kong SAR Government has been diligently implementing the requirements of the relevant international conventions and introducing legislation to enforce such requirements in Hong Kong waters.  In 2008, the Merchant Shipping (Prevention of Air Pollution) Regulation (Cap. 413M) was enacted to implement the latest requirements under Annex VI (Prevention of air pollution from ships) to the IMO's International Convention on the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, 1973 (referred to as "MARPOL"). The said Regulation seeks to control emissions from ocean-going vessels and other vessels in Hong Kong waters.  Under the Regulation, ships operating in Hong Kong waters are required to use fuel with a sulphur content of not more than 4.5%, which will be tightened to 3.5% in 2012.  As regards the air pollution control measures, these include restricting the emissions of harmful substances (including nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds and sulphur oxides), regulating the use of ozone depleting substances and controlling shipboard incineration.

(b)To assess the impact of vessels on local air quality, the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) has commissioned the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology to study the emission of air pollutants from vessels entering and leaving Hong Kong.  Information on ocean-going vessels and river-trade vessels, including the fuel used and the operating conditions in Hong Kong waters, has been collected to estimate maritime emissions.  According to its initial findings, the average sulphur content of marine fuel used by ocean-going vessels calling at Hong Kong's port and transiting Hong Kong waters is 2.9%, which meets the requirement of the relevant international convention.

(c)EPD has been working closely with the Marine Department and closely watching the IMO's and international community's latest development in policies and measures to reduce maritime emissions and to enhance the quality of marine fuel.  We will study the feasibility of introducing such measures into Hong Kong.  Moreover, we note that many ship liners have recently pledged to switch their vessels to low-sulphur fuel when berthing in Hong Kong.  We welcome this move since it helps reduce the air pollution in Hong Kong.  EPD has also completed a trial of local ferries using ultra low sulphur diesel.  We are analysing the findings and will map out a suitable way forward for encouraging local ferries to switch to cleaner fuels or adopt other emission control measures.

Ends/Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Issued at HKT 12:40


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