MARINE POLLUTION

Switch to cleaner fuel to much cleaner air: think tank

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 March, 2013, 3:46am

Noxious exhaust emissions from cruise ships calling at the city will be cut significantly if the vessels switch to using low-sulphur fuel or shore power, local think tank Civic Exchange says.

Simon Ng Ka-wing, the centre's head of transport and sustainable research, said there would have been a 71 per cent cut in sulphur dioxide emissions last year if the 2,185 cruise ships that called at Hong Kong had used low-sulphur fuel instead of the dirtier marine bunker fuel. Particulate matter emissions would have fallen by 60 per cent, he said.

Low-sulphur fuel has a sulphur content of 0.5 to 1 per cent, compared with bunker fuel's 4.5 per cent.

Based on the 16 cruise ships booked to berth at the Kai Tak cruise terminal between June and April 2014, Ng said, sulphur dioxide emissions would be reduced by 83 per cent and particulate matter by 78 per cent if the vessels used cleaner diesel.

But if they did not, they would emit 43 tonnes of sulphur, 44 tonnes of nitrogen dioxide and 5 tonnes of particulate matter in just this year alone, he said.

Industry sources, however, argue that the vessels calling at Kai Tak in the first year will account for less than 0.4 per cent of the city's total marine emissions. This included pollution caused by container ships, tankers, river trade vessels, ferries and pleasure craft, they said.

"There would be a very substantial improvement by switching to low-sulphur diesel at berth," Ng said. This would benefit residents in the pollution hotspots of Tsim Sha Tsui, Hung Hom and Kowloon Bay, where most cruise ships currently moor.

Another option, Ng said, was to use shore power, which was more suitable at Kai Tak where there was space to install the equipment rather than at Ocean Terminal. But more research had to be done to see if shore power was cheaper and environmentally beneficial than low-sulphur diesel, he said.

Civic Exchange hosted a workshop yesterday that attracted about 20 cruise and shipping industry representatives to brief the sector about its cruise ship emissions report.

Ng said the paper was "a first step to engage the cruise industry in Hong Kong". "By speaking directly to the cruise industry, we shall learn more about … what their major concerns are about government control and regulation," he said.