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Incentivise the emissions debate, urges Hong Kong think tank

Incentivise the emissions debate, urges Hong Kong think tank

Hong Kong: Ships operating near the Hong Kong and Shenzhen ports may be given incentives to slow their speeds and switch to low-sulphur fuels, if a proposal to combat ship-generated pollution gets the green light. A Hong Kong public policy think tank, Civic Exchange headed by prominent Hong Konger Christine Loh, has published a 45-page study, detailing incentives and measures to reduce marine and port-related emissions. The report, 'Green Harbours: Hong Kong and Shenzhen', recommends 12 key measures to reduce maritime pollution to be implemented by both the private and public sectors.
The measures include reducing vessel speed limits, installing shoreside power for certain vessels, offering incentives to use emission abatement technologies, and berthing priority for compliant vessels.
The report was written with input from key organisations such as the Hong Kong Shipowners Association (HKSOA), the Marine Department, terminal companies including Hutchison Ports, and US port authorities.
Shipping companies, as well as port and local craft operators were ''willing to use cleaner fuels and follow best emission abatement practices, as long as regulations are ensure a level playing field," the report noted.
It also proposed offering subsidies to encourage vessel operators to switch to low-sulphur fuel within 40 miles of Hong Kong and Shenzhen ports, similar to the Vessel Main Engine Fuel Incentive Program offered by the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, .
''Under the proposal, the ports would pay the difference between the price of bunker fuel and the more costly low-sulphur distillate fuel for vessel operators who make the fuel switch within at least 20 miles and out as far as 40 miles from the ports,'' the report stated.
To qualify for the incentives, the ships must participate in the ports' voluntary vessel speed reduction programme, limiting speeds to 12 knots.
The ships must also burn low-sulphur fuel in their auxiliary engine while at berth, the report said.
The Hong Kong government may also consider clean fuel incentives whereby a fee could be charged for fuel with higher sulphur content, to encourage the use of cleaner fuels for local craft.
Buying cleaner fuels, on the other hand, should be tax-free, it was proposed.
For instance, instead of making red diesel (0.5% sulphur) non-dutiable and imposing a duty on ultra-low sulphur diesel (ULSD) as is currently the case in Hong Kong, ULSD should be tax-free, the report said.
''Also, ULSD prices will decrease with an increase in demand, making this fuel more afforable to more stakeholders,'' it added.
Included as well in the comprehensive report was the possibility of designating the Hong Kong-Pearl River Delta (PRD) region as a micro-Emissions Control Area (ECA).
This concept can be developed into a joint-green port policy on further discussions with the national authorities in Beijing, the report said.
''We feel strongly that adopting green port policies is critical for the long-term sustainability of not only for Hong Kong but also Shenzhen, now the second and fourth largest container ports in the world in throughput terms,'' said Christine Loh, chief executive officer of Civic Exchange.
''When all the other marine, logistics and port-related activities are added in, these very close neighbours must in fact strive to operate the cleanest ports in the world since they have the highest density of activities within a small area of land and water,'' she said.
"This report, which was based on extensive consultation with stakeholders from both government and the private sector, highlights the fact that many private sector port operators and ship-owners have already taken voluntary measures to improve environmental performance, and are willing to do more," the HKSOA reported in a note to members. "However, there is a need for the government to create a level playing field for all, so that slow implementers do not reap competitive advantage from non-action."  [18/6/08]

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