New system to spot polluting ships from Guangdong
A new registration system for Guangdong ships visiting Hong Kong waters is intended to spot and cut down on merchant shipping that spews pollutants into the air.
The system, launched by Hong Kong and Guangdong province, was put in place amid growing concerns about vessel pollution.
Nearly 1,200 vessels, 90 per cent of the total, entering Hong Kong waters regularly are from Guangdong, according to the Marine Department. Some use cheap and dirty fuel, which worsens air quality.
The new system would spot polluting ships, So Chi-ping, the Marine Department's general manager of local vessel safety, said yesterday.
'We signed an agreement with the marine authority in Guangdong province two months ago to enforce a registration system,' he told a Legislative Council meeting on the regulation of merchant shipping to prevent air pollution.
'Now, we can identify all the Guangdong vessels, even those which are smaller than 400 gross tonnes, when they sail or pass by Hong Kong waters.
'We can also check their shipping companies to see if they are using clean fuel,' he said, adding that the registration system would be extended to Hainan , Guangxi and Fujian by the end of the year.
Currently, 43 countries including the mainland have signed the Marpol, the main international convention adopted by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to prevent sea pollution from ships.
Under Marpol, the average sulfur content of fuel should not exceed 4.5 per cent m/m (the unit mass).
The IMO is reviewing this and proposes tightening the standard to 3 per cent in 2012 and 1.5 per cent in 2016.
Cheng Yeung-ming, the Marine Department maritime policy chief, said that according to local fuel suppliers, the sulfur in heavy fuel used in Hong Kong averaged 3.8 per cent.
However, Democrat legislator Sin Chung-kai noted that many ships did not buy fuel from local suppliers. He said the emissions from small vessels and ferries from the mainland and Macau were very serious.
The Environmental Protection Department released data this month showing that the emission of sulfur dioxide from vessels increased 16 per cent between 2001 and 2005.
Mr So admitted the mainland had signed the Marpol, but that applied only to cross-ocean vessels. 'The small vessels comply with it only voluntarily,' he said.
Director of Marine Roger Tupper said the authority could not inspect any ships - mainland and international - coming to Hong Kong under current laws.
'We are not sure that some ships may use cheaper fuel which exceeds the international standard. That's why we need the new regulation.'
The Merchant Shipping Regulation, now under consideration by Legco, is expected to take effect in the middle of next year. It will impose strict restrictions on the emissions while seeking control on the quality of fuel oil used.