Hong Kong to Make Low-Sulphur Fuel Mandatory

Mooring operations in Hong Kong. Photo (c) Shutterstock/donvictorio
Mooring operations in Hong Kong. Photo (c) Shutterstock/donvictorio

Beginning July 1, 2015, ocean going vessels berthed in Hong Kong will be required to use cleaner burning fuels or be faced with steep fines.

Hong Kong’s Environmental Protection Department unveiled details of the new low sulphur fuel regulations on Wednesday that will ensure reduced ship emissions and improved air quality in local communities.

Known as the Air Pollution Control (Ocean Going Vessels) (Fuel at Berth) Regulation, ocean going vessels (OGVs) will be required to use bunkers with a sulphur content no greater than .5% while berthing. Ships will also be allowed to use liquefied natural gas and other fuels approved by the Director of Environmental Protection, or use gas “scrubbers” to ensure the low-sulphur requirement is met.

Since September 2012, Hong Kong has incentivized shipowners to meet the .5% mark with lower fees, however the new regulation will make the .5% mandatory. With the previous scheme, “at-berth” was defined as vessels that are moored at buoys, anchorages, wharfs or terminals or docks withinin Hong Kong waters.

“The Regulation prohibits OGVs from using any fuel other than compliant fuel while at berth in Hong Kong, except during the first hour after arrival and the last hour before departure,” a spokesman for the Environmental Protection Department said in a statement regarding the new regulations. “The shipmasters and ship owners are required to record the date and time of fuel switching and keep the relevant records for three years. If an OGV uses technology that can achieve the same or less emission of sulphur dioxide (SO2) when compared with using low-sulphur marine fuel, the OGV may be exempted from switching to compliant fuel.”

Once in effect, masters and owners of ocean going vessels not meeting the fuel requirement could be liable to a maximum fine of HKD$200,000 (>US$25,000) and six months imprisonment. Furthermore, shipmasters and ship owners who fail to record or keep the required particulars will also be liable to a maximum fine of HKD$50,000 and imprisonment for three months.

The new regulation is expected to take effect July 1, 2015, pending the approval from the local Legislative Council. The regulation will be tabled before the Council next Wednesday, March 18.

According to the Environmental Protection Department estimates, SOx emissions from ships at berth account for about 40 percent of the total SOx emissions during a ship’s stay in Hong Kong. The new regulation could help reduce the total emissions of SOx by 12% and overall particulate matter by 6%, the EPD estimates.