Pearl River Delta ports too small for control zone The port cluster in the Pearl River Delta region would be too small to be an international emissions-control area for vessels such as container ships, says the Environmental Protection Department. The doubts arise over news that Beijing has ratified a key component of a maritime convention on air pollution that enables the mainland and Hong Kong to designate such areas. Instead, the department said Hong Kong should collaborate with other ports in the Pacific Rim region in its fight against pollution. Assistant Director of Marine Chun Ping-fai said Beijing had ratified Annex VI of the Marpol Convention in June. The annex will be extended to Hong Kong next year after local legislation that will bring in some extra controls is enacted. The legislation will empower the department to enforce emission-control measures such as inspecting fuel on board cargo ships and impose penalties for failure to comply. The measures will also cover local vessels. The sulfur content of fuel burned by sea-going vessels will have to be 4.5 per cent or less. But if Beijing wants to increase controls over sulfur dioxide emissions, it will have to apply to designate its waters a sulfur dioxide emission-control area (SECA). A stricter standard on sulfur content as low as 1.5 per cent would then be imposed. Only the Baltic Sea and North Sea are presently SECAs. Mr Chun said the SECA option would be necessary if Hong Kong needed to make further cuts to sulfur-dioxide emissions from vessels. But such a proposal needed endorsement by the convention signatories and a comprehensive plan to reduce land-based emissions as well. 'We have twice raised that idea to the Maritime Safety Administration on the mainland. But they are not responsible for environmental protection and we haven't got any reply so far,' he said. 'What we can do is to implement what the IMO [International Maritime Organisation] has endorsed so far, and EPD has to take its lead to push forward that proposal.' A department spokeswoman said the delta region was too small to become a SECA. 'Since the movement of international vessels covers a vast area, the stretch of Hong Kong waters and its vicinity are too small to be eligible for becoming a SECA,' she said. 'Establishing a SECA in this region will require agreement by other ports in the entire Pacific Rim.' She said there had been preliminary discussions with other ports in the region on improving air quality and they supported such collaboration, but it might be years before there was something concrete. Hong Kong, with Yantian and Shekou ports in Shenzhen, handled about 11 per cent of the world's container cargo, according to the think-tank Civic Exchange. Arthur Bowring, of the Hong Kong Ship Owners' Association, supported the SECA idea and was worried that land-based emissions had not yet come under control.