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Particulate Matter

China studies shore power to supplement new emissions rules

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

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.

Stricter air pollution rules for machinery agreed

Emissions from non-road mobile machinery are a significant source of air pollution, especially nitrogen oxides and particulate matter.

The non-road mobile machinery (NRMM) directive – which dates back to 1997, but has been amended and extended several times since then – regulates emissions of the major air pollutants from diesel and petrol engines in a wide variety of off-road applications, including bulldozers, trains, chainsaws, larger inland ships and many other forms of machinery.

Despite the emission limits set by the NRMM directive, emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particle matter (PM) pollutants from this sector are still high and have grown in relative terms. This is explained by the steep increase in the number of non-road machines put into service and by the fact that the emission limits set for NRMM are less strict compared to those mandated for similar engines used by road vehicles.

In 2010, the NRMM sector was responsible for around 15 per cent of the total NOx emissions and 5 per cent of the total PM emissions in the EU. While the PM share is expected to decrease, the NOx share is expected to increase to nearly 20 per cent in 2020.

Against this background, in September 2014 the Commission proposed a new regulation to strengthen the emissions standards. According to the Commission’s impact assessment, the stricter standards would bring benefits of between €26.1 and 33.3 billion by 2040, while the costs would be in the range of €5.2 to 5.8 billion in the same time period.

Negotiations between the EU’s decisionmaking institutions resulted on 6 April in a deal on new pollution limits and an implementation timetable that is largely in line with the Commission’s original proposal. The main exception is a weaker emission limit for NOx from barges.

The new harmonised type-approval conditions, including emission limit values, for new engines installed in non-road mobile machinery will start to apply gradually from 2018 up to 2020 depending on the category of the engine.

Added to the agreement is the possibility of retrofit requirements for existing engines to reduce their emissions. The Commission is tasked to assess the possibility of establishing EU-wide rules in this regard by 31 December 2018.

Moreover, a review to establish whether further emissions reductions are needed is to take place by 31 December 2020, with a particular focus on barges and trains.

Environmental groups criticised the weaker rules for barges and the fact that no particle number (PN) limit had been adopted for diesel locomotives.

Julia Poliscanova, air pollution manager at Transport and Environment (T&E), said: “More diesel machines will now be required to clean up their act with diesel particulate filters. But diesel trains and inland barges shouldn’t be allowed to belch toxic fumes while the technology to clean up the emissions is available and routinely fitted to modern trucks.

Moving more goods and people by rail and water shouldn’t result in a trade off for higher air pollution.”

Regarding the possible retrofitting of existing diesel off-road machinery, Julia Poliscanova said: “The Commission should present an ambitious proposal to clean up existing trains, barges and construction machinery, which will continue to be used for decades.”

Diesel exhaust is carcinogenic, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), and diesel machines are a major local source of urban air pollution near some railway stations and construction sites. Every year air pollution causes more than 400,000 premature deaths and over 100 million sick days, costing society hundreds of billions of euro.

Before being finally adopted, the first-reading agreement will have to be confirmed by the Parliament and the Council, in accordance with the EU’s ordinary legislative procedure.

Christer Ågren

Sources: Council press release 168/16, 6 April, and T&E press release, 7 April 2016.