Mandatory Low Sulfur Rules Come Into Force in Hong Kong, Vessels Must Re-Register for Incentive Scheme

Wednesday July 1, 2015

New rules requiring vessels at berth in Hong Kong to switch to low-sulfur fuel have come into effect today. 

Under the rules, berthed vessels must switch to fuel with a maximum sulfur content of 0.5 percent by weight, except during the first hour after arrival and the last hour before departure.

Compliance is also possible using approved technology providing an equivalent emissions reduction.

Vessel masters and owners who fail to comply with the July 1 low sulfur regulation face a maximum fine of $200,000 and imprisonment for six months.

Hong Kong has been encouraging operators to switch to low sulfur fuel while at berth since 2012, when it introduced an incentive scheme offering discounts on port fees for vessels that made the switch voluntary.

Despite now being mandatory, In May the Government of Hong Kong announced a 30 month extension to the incentive scheme.

The Hong Kong Marine Department has issued a notice advising that ocean-going vessels (OGVs) wishing to take advantage of the Extended Incentive Scheme must be re-registered with the Environmental Protection Department in order to continue to claim a 50 percent reduction in Hong Kong port facility and light dues up to March 31, 2018.

The current incentive scheme will expire on September 25, 2015.

As reported by Ship & Bunker last month, from today OGVs qualify for the scheme not only through the use of approved fuel, but also liquefied natural gas (LNG) or technology that can achieve sulfur dioxide (SO2) emission reduction as effectively as compliant low sulfur fuel.

Authorities have said extending the incentive scheme, would "help the shipping industry cope with the increased operating costs of the fuel switch during the transitional period."

Earlier this year Hong Kong-based public policy think tank Civic Exchange criticized the extension, calling it a "calculated attempt to prevent cost-conscious ship operators from going to Shenzhen and other neighbouring ports where regulation on marine fuel quality is lacking."