Carriers rise to the emissions challenge in HK
Container lines’ penchant for acting collectively could be used as a force for good when it comes to curbing ship emissions in Asia.
This will certainly be good news for the people living in the heavily populated areas crammed up against the port and along the channel.
Maersk made its low sulphur decision following consultations with Hong Kong’s Civic Exchange, a group promoting cleaner air (among other issues). APL soon jumped on the green wagon and it now seems the rest of the lines will soon also be on board.
But this has miffed Hong Kong-based OOCL, according to the South China Morning Post. There was apparently a “gentleman’s agreement” that the switch to cleaner low sulphur fuel would be made collectively on January 1, but Maersk and APL jumped the gun.
Whether that was the case or not, it is a welcome move by the shipping industry, even if some feelings were hurt. When it comes to clean air, the sooner the better.
A third of the emissions measured in the Kwai Chung port area by the city’s Environmental Protection Department are from ocean vessels and switching from the heavily polluting diesel bunker fuel to a cleaner version will improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in the area.
It may also spur other ports across Asia to encourage lines to adopt the same practice. When Maersk made the announcement that it was switching to clean fuel in Hong Kong the carrier said the move would cost it US$1 million a year. Asked whether the line would use low sulphur fuel in all Asian ports, the Danish giant said it would be at a competitive disadvantage unless all the lines followed suit.
So there is the challenge for the carriers. Prove that your drive to cut down on harmful emissions is more than just pretty words on a corporate social responsibility brochure and extend the low sulphur fuel switch to all Asian ports.
And please don’t slap on a “Clean Bunker Fuel Adjustment Surcharge”. That would just be too much.