Ship-owners to stick with voluntary emissions agreement for now

PUBLISHED : Friday, 25 January, 2013, 2:48pm
UPDATED : Friday, 25 January, 2013, 3:22pm

A group of some of the world's largest shipowners have vowed to renew their voluntary initiative to cut emissions from ships in the region, but have warned that they might abandon the plan if the government does not pass laws requiring all ships to clean up their act while in Hong Kong.

The 17 shipowners signed a ‘Fair Winds Charter 2013’ renewing until the end of 2013 an existing  commitment to switch to fuel with a sulphur content of 0.5 per cent or below while berthed in Hong Kong “to the maximum extent possible”. The group included CMA-CGM, Maersk, Hapag-Lloyd, Mitsui OSK, COSCO, Hanjin Shipping, and China Navigation.

The group said it would cooperate with the governments of Hong Kong, Shenzhen and Guangdong to introduce laws that were consistent with international standards.

It asked the Hong Kong government to gazette legislation for at-berth fuel switching “or equivalent measures” by next January to offer a level playing field for the industry, and to simplify an existing incentive scheme to help operators switch fuels.

It called on Hong Kong to help develop a common control system to apply across the Pearl River Delta, but warned that currently the signatories to the charter were “shouldering the cost of such actions whilst competitors are not obliged to bear the cost of reducing emissions”.

“If there is no substantial progress towards mandatory regulation by December 31, 2013, participating members may cease their voluntary reductions in marine emissions,” the charter statement said.

Emissions from the shipping sector have been in the spotlight in recent years because of concerns that the bunker fuel that ships use is high in sulphur and particulates.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's said in his policy address last week that ships would soon have to switch to low-sulphur fuel to cut emissions.