Tighter Fuel Standards for Container Vessels will Help Clear Air in Beijing. Container Ships that enter the North Sea and Baltic ports follow regulations to use fuel with less than 1 percent sulfur in order to reduce emissions. The Emission Control Areas will tighten regulations further to allow 0.1 percent sulfur fuel by 2015, and 0.5 percent sulfur fuel by 2050. The International Maritime Organization sets these standards.
Sulfur Levels Matter
Ships that enter Hong Kong’s ports are currently allowed to burn fuel with up to 3.5 percent sulfur oil. This oil is less costly than oil with reduced sulfur oil, but it is contributing to the high level of air pollution in Hong Kong and threatening the health of the 25 million people in the area. Sulfur emissions have been estimated to cause up to 60,000 deaths worldwide each year. The Pearl River Delta area in China has one of the highest risks of ship pollution due to the several big ports and high- density urban population.
Fighting for Better Air Quality
Fuel standards will become tighter in the near future. Leaders in Beijing are focusing on cleaning up Hong Kong’s air quality. The government is currently working out logistics of how to mitigate costs from fuel switching. The switch will be more economically savy as time goes on, because fuel with higher sulfur content continues to rise in cost as worldwide standards become tighter. Right now Hong Kong is fuel blending Bunker fuel from Singapore with cleaner fuel. Fuel blending adds unnecessary cost.
The stricter fuel standards will initially increase costs of the shipping lines, which are already stressed by the economic recession and increasing energy prices. One of the biggest international shipping companies is Orient Overseas International Limited.
Putting Environment Ahead of Economy
It seems that the leaders of Beijing are willing to take the economic risk in order to move to a more environmentally sustainable economy. Mike Kilburn, the head of environmental strategy at Civic Exchange, says that the central government in China “wants to move away from a purely economic-driven model to recognize quality of life as well”. One of the government’s 2008 goals was to make the Pearl River Delta area, an area within close proximity to ports, more livable. This area, which includes Hong Kong, Shenzhen, and Guangzhou, processes approximately 60 million ISO standard steel 20 foot and 40 foot storage containers each year.