Cargo ships face financial torpedo in pollution war

PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 September, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 21 September, 2007, 12:00am

The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) plans to establish a database on the pollution footprint left by ocean-going cargo vessels, in a bid to clean up the global environment.

Here in Hong Kong, ports follow environmental protection measures stipulated by the IMO and the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL), covering emissions of oil, noxious liquid substances, harmful substances, sewage, rubbish and polluting air emissions.

Legislation concerning the prevention of air pollution from ships is expected to be introduced early next year. The Marine Department said it was also participating in development work at the IMO regarding the management of ballast water, use of anti-fouling paints and ship recycling to minimise their impact on the environment.

'If ships calling at Hong Kong have to comply with more stringent environmental requirements, the operating costs would unavoidably be higher. Unless all the ports in the region impose similar requirements, ship operators of course would avoid those ports that cost more,' said Daisy Lo, a Marine Department spokesperson.

One of the leading Pearl River Delta ports, Yantian International Container Terminals (YICT), aims to build a green port that exceeds the requirements of China's environmental regulations. It intends to minimise pollution and recycle waste, integrate environmental considerations into infrastructure development, and conserve energy resources.

In 2006 YICT saved 400,000 sheets of paper and 3 million kWh of electricity, equivalent to the amount 3,000 households consume in a year. It treated a daily average of 700 cubic metres of waste water, and solar power is used in heating and lighting facilities wherever possible. Fuel consumption is cut by between 5 and 25 per cent by replacing diesel engines in gantry cranes with electrical equivalents, and air filters have been installed in port equipment.

Hong Kong parent Hutchison Port Holdings (HPH) said it was also committed to 'making its operations more environmentally friendly'. Its flagship operation Hong Kong International Terminals (HIT) found that power could be saved by adding a super-capacitor to its rubber-tyred gantry cranes (RTGCs) which, when fully charged, would supply electricity to the crane as it lifted the container.

It is also conducting tests to lower the engine speeds of the RTGCs to cut consumption of diesel, as well as convert some RTGCs from diesel to electrically powered engines to lower air pollution.

HIT has also introduced an Environmental Protection Programme to reduce sulphur oxide emissions from exhaust pipes by 90 per cent by switching its port vehicles from industrial diesel to ultra-low sulphur diesel within two years.

A study was also being conducted to ascertain where it could introduce alternative energy sources into its port operations worldwide, said Anthony Tam, group corporate affairs manager, HPH.

From next year, ships entering Hong Kong will be required to use fuel with a sulphur content of less than 4.5 per cent, and ships built after 2000 will have to comply with international standards governing emission levels of nitrogen oxide.