The city's shipping industry is urging Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying to curb noxious exhaust emissions from vessels in next week's policy address. Its leaders want to see all shipping lines forced to adopt emission limits, similar to an initiative launched by a group of shipowners in 2010 in which they voluntarily agreed to use low-sulphur diesel "to the maximum extent possible" in Hong Kong. Arthur Bowring, managing director of the Shipowners Association, urged Leung "to set out a very clear agenda and timeline for the imposition of regulations that ultimately leads to a globally recognised emissions control area in the Pearl River Delta". Roberto Giannetta, representing the Liner Shipping Association, said: "We are looking forward to some strong leadership and direction from the chief executive, the rest of the government and the Legislative Council - starting next week with the chief executive's policy address." Most container shipping lines calling at Kwai Chung container port are members of Giannetta's association, which was instrumental - along with the public policy think tank Civic Exchange - in launching the low-sulphur diesel initiative, called the Fair Winds Charter. About 18 firms agreed to switch to the fuel while berthed or anchored in Hong Kong. In return, they wanted the Hong Kong and Guangdong governments to introduce regulatory controls by the end of last year. More environmentally conscious firms are aware of the harmful effects of marine exhaust pollution and want to be seen taking action voluntarily rather than face tougher legal controls. The Civic Exchange said marine sources of sulphur dioxide accounted for 519 premature deaths a year in the Pearl River Delta, including 385 in Hong Kong. If all container lines calling at the city switched to the cleanest fuel available, sulphur dioxide emissions from shipping would drop 80 per cent. Bowring noted that the Environmental Protection Department initiated a rebate scheme in September that cut port dues for ships using low-sulphur diesel. He said the next stage was to make ships switch to low-sulphur diesel. That would "ensure a level playing field" among all shipping lines and not financially penalise environmentally conscious shipowners. The final stage was for emission controls throughout the Pearl River Delta, he added. "Such regulation might take the form of switching fuel at berth and it could then be extended to slow steaming or other measures," Bowring said. "We need a firm commitment from the government towards regulation that follows international legislation and is technically achievable." Giannetta added: "As an industry we will stand ready to lend our support and concrete involvement to the government and Legco to see this through in the next 12 months." Heavily polluting marine diesel used by carriers such as Mediterranean Shipping has a typical sulphur content of 2.8 to 3.5 per cent and costs about US$600 per tonne. Low-sulphur fuel - used by Maersk, CMA CGM and the Tung family-controlled carrier Orient Overseas Container Line - has a sulphur content of 0.5 per cent or less but costs more than US$1,000 per tonne.