Update: China to Implement ECAs From 2019, At-Berth Regs from 2017

by Ship & Bunker News Team
Wednesday December 9, 2015
  • Update 1 - Added in specifically what ports were the 11 "core" ports.
  • Update 1 - Added details on voluntary introduction of new regs at core ports from 2016.

The Chinese Government has announced that it will establish Asia's first Emissions Control Areas (ECAs) within its waters, putting a 0.5 percent sulfur content cap on bunkers used within the zones from January 1, 2019, the first such zones outside of Europe and North America.

The ECAs will cover the Pearl River Delta (PRD), Yangtze River Delta (YRD), and Bohai Bay regions, and will be proceeded with at-berth sulfur regs in-line with rules that came into effect in Hong King earlier this year.

As of January 1, 2017 all ships calling at the core ports within China's new ECAs will be required to use fuel with no more than a 0.5 percent sulfur content while at berth, except during the first hour after arrival and the last hour before departure.

Those ports have been identified as the PRD ports of Shenzhen, Guangzhou, and Zhuhai; the YRD ports of Shanghai, Ningbo-Zhoushan, Suzhou, and Nantong; and Tianjin, Qinhuangdao, Tangshan, and Huanghua in Bahai Bay.

Those ports also have the option of implementing the new requirements as early as January 1, 2016, although industry commentators have since speculated that Shanghai and Shenzhen are the only two ports that might consider such a move.

On January 1, 2018, the 0.5 percent at-berth fuel requirement will be extended to cover all ports within the ECAs.

The significance of the move was highlighted by the Huffington Post, who noted that in 2014 China's proposed ECA ports collectively handled over 20 percent of the containers shipped around the world.

On January 1, 2019 the regulation will extend to require all ships operating within the waters of the PRD, YRD, and Bohai Bay regions, effectively 12 nautical miles off the Chinese coastline within the respective zones, to use a marine fuel with a sulfur content not exceeding 0.5 percent.

Under China's ECA regulation, alternative methods of compliance will be permitted, such as the use of shore power, "clean energy," exhaust gas after treatment systems (scrubbers), and other unspecified alternative measures.

Global Sulfur Cap

It is possible that, pending the outcome of an International Maritime Organisation (IMO) fuel availability study, in 2020 a global 0.50 percent maximum sulfur cap will be brought into force, meaning the Chinese ECA will then be in-line with the new global rules after just one year.

2025 is currently set as the latest date of adoption for the global cap.

However China's new law includes a provision for a review at the end of 2019 in order to determine if stricter requirements for marine fuel should be implemented, which may see a further reduction in China's sulfur cap to 0.10 percent, and an expanding of the ECA area.

North American and European ECAs currently require the use of bunkers with a maximum 0.10 percent sulfur content.

In September Ship & Bunker reported that China had amended its 15 year-old Air Pollution Prevention and Control Law to tackle shipping emissions for the first time, paving the way for the creation of ECAs.