Shore power units, like the one pictured, can help ports bring down their emissions, which they are under increasing pressure to do around the globe.
China’s Ministry of Transport is investigating the widespread use of shore power to help address pollution in the country’s port areas as part of a wider push to reduce maritime emissions, but the haphazard nature of that push has created headaches for container lines and shipowners.
The use of shore power is being studied to supplement the set-up of emission control areas at the main commercial shipping centers of the Yangtze and Pearl River Deltas and the northeastern Bohai Rim. Details of the ECAs, including specific requirements and timelines for enforcement, were announced in a directive and follow-up notifications issued by the ministry from the end of last year.
Shore power projects, which the International Council on Clean Transportation says are a highly effective alternative to fuel switching for emissions reduction, were launched at five major ports across the country together with two ship-shore power conversion projects.
“It (shore power) nearly eliminates NOX (nitrogen oxide), PM (particulate matter), and SOX (sulfur oxide) emissions in port areas due to a cleaner electricity generation mix,” the ICCT found in a recent study on the use of shore power at the Port of Shenzhen. However, it also noted that shore power is a much less cost-effective way of reducing emissions.
“Only if a low-sulfur fuel supply cannot be guaranteed or NOX emissions are dominant concerns should onshore power be prioritized.”
The shore power trials are being run at container terminals in Lianyungang, Guangzhou, Shenzhen Yantian, Shanghai and Ningbo-Zhoushan. The ship-shore power conversion projects involve seven China Cosco Shipping container ships with capacities of 10,000 twenty-foot-equivalent units, and four 250,000 deadweight tonnage bulk carriers from Shangdong Shipping.
The new ECA regulations require ships berthing at key ports in the Yangtze River Delta ECA to use fuel with a sulfur content not exceeding 0.5 percent since April 1 of this year. The requirement is extended to ships berthing at key Pearl River Delta and Bohai Rim ports from January of 2017.
From Jan. 1, 2019, ships operating anywhere in the ECAs, not just at berth, must use fuel with a sulfur content of no more than 0.5 percent.
The regulation excludes Hong Kong and Macau, but Hong Kong’s Environmental Protection Department said it will also implement the requirement.
Analysts said the support of China’s national oil companies, which dominate oil and gas upstream and downstream sectors, and the availability of low-sulfur fuel for vessels would be critical to ensure the success of the regulation.
“Because of strong SOE (state-owned enterprise) ownership in energy supplies it is important to have them fully on board. If they aren’t, or if this regulation will reduce their margins, there is a greater risk that business continues as usual,” Richard Brubaker, adjunct professor of management, sustainability and responsible leadership at the China Europe International Business School told JOC.com
Ships that don’t comply with the new ECA regulation are liable for fines of between $1,500 and $15,000 under the Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Prevention and Control of Air Pollution.
The China Maritime Safety Administration has issued guidelines on the implementation and supervision of ECAs that state how compliance will be verified.
For ships using low-sulfur fuel, verification will be made by a check of bunker delivery notes, fuel changeover procedures, engine room logbook records and fuel oil quality and samples. For ships using alternative measures to reduce emissions, such as shore power, liquefied natural gas or exhaust gas scrubbers, checks will center on International Air Pollution Prevention certification and engine room log books.
China’s Regulation of Prevention and Control of Marine Pollution Act requires ships to keep bunker delivery documents on board for three years and a sample of fuel for one year. Fines of up to $1,500 can be imposed on owners that fail to meet the fuel record keeping requirements.
Huatai Insurance Agency, a mainland-based company that specializes in helping the private sector navigate China’s maritime environment, said the ECA requirements are already being enforced in the Yangtze River Delta.
“There have already been a few cases where [the Shanghai Maritime Safety Administration] has issued penalty notice to ships for failing to keep fuel sample and fuel supply documents onboard as required,” Huatai said in a circular to customers published on its website.
Because of challenges that vessel operators may encounter seeking to comply with the new regulation, the Shanghai MSA launched an exemption scheme that allows shipping companies or agencies to apply for an exemption if using low-sulfur fuel is unsafe for the vessel.
With China home to seven of the world’s 10 largest ports, and given the density of population in its port cities and their surroundings, the lack of central direction on emissions control for ports and shipping is a huge concern both globally and domestically.
Hong Kong led the way when public pressure over pollution levels in the Special Administrative Region led it to launch a scheme for voluntary switching to low-sulfur fuel.
This was made mandatory for all ocean-going vessels at berth in the port in July of last year.
The Shenzhen port complex has a voluntary low-sulfur fuel switching scheme in place, and several other Chinese ports — including Qingdao in Shandong province, Waigaoqiao in Shanghai and Shekou in Shenzhen — have also installed shore power infrastructure as well as electrified vehicles and port equipment to reduce emissions.