Low Sulfur Switch for Hong Kong Cruise Ships Would Drop SO2 by 71%

by Ship & Bunker News Team
Wednesday March 6, 2013

A new report by Hong Kong public policy think tank Civic Exchange says that if all the cruise ships that visited the country in 2012 were to switch to a fuel with a maximum sulfur content of 0.5 percent while at berth, then at berth sulfur dioxide (SO2) and PM10 particulate matter emissions would be cut by approximately 71 percent and 63 percent respectively.

Nitrous oxides (NOX) would be reduced by a relatively smaller 5 percent, it said.

Cruise ships emitted 508.7 tonnes of SO2 while at berth in Hong Kong in 2012, according to the report, and that would have been reduced to 147.6 tonnes if they had switched to low-sulfur fuel.

That change would also have reduced particulate matter emissions from 51.2 to 19 tonnes, and reduced NOx emissions from 760.7 tonnes to 741.7 tonnes.

In total last year, the report said cruise ships emitted 867 tonnes of sulfur dioxide (SO2) in Hong Kong's waters, as well as 1,287 tonnes of nitrogen oxides, and 97 tonnes of large particulate matter (PM10).

While those figures represent an overall reduction in emissions compared to 2007 levels, the opening of the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal in June will add to the 2012 totals as larger cruise ships will visit Hong Kong and stay for longer.

Civic Exchange estimates that if all the cruise ships agree to switch to 0.5 percent maximum sulfur content fuel while berthing at the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal between June 2013 and April 2014, at berth SO2 and PM10 emissions will be reduced by about 83 percent and 78 percent during that period, respectively.

NOX emissions reduction would again be much smaller, at about 5 percent.

First Steps

"This report is a first step to engage the cruise industry in Hong Kong," Simon Ng, Civic Exchange's Head of Transport & Sustainability Research, said in a press release.

"By speaking directly to the cruise industry, we shall learn more about their operation, business model, as well as how they see their role in emission reduction, and what their major concerns are about government control and regulation."

Another possible method of reducing pollution is the use of shore-side power, which would eliminate all forms of air pollution from the ships while they are connected to the port's electricity grid, but the study noted that such a change would shift emissions to the power plants producing electricity, so the net effect can't be determined without a separate study.

Kai Tak Cruise Terminal has the most potential for on-shore power facilities, and the government has agreed to seek funding to install a power grid there, but it may take "at least a couple of years" to have it online, the study says.

Solutions for emissions while ships are at berth do not address the portion of pollution that takes place while they are moving, but the report also suggests additional possible solutions including slower speed limits in areas like Tathong Channel and southeastern Hong Kong waters, or new technology-neutral environmental regulations.