News 26 Mar, 2015

Air Pollution Control (Ocean Going Vessels) (Fuel at Berth) Regulations in Hong Kong

With air quality a particular concern for the authorities in Hong Kong, in 2012 the government introduced a fuel switching scheme encouraging owners to use low sulphur fuel on their vessels while berthed in return for a reduction in light and port dues. The Hong Kong government has now taken a further step towards reducing emissions by introducing legislation mandating the use of low sulphur fuels by ocean going vessels of 500 GT or over while “at berth” in Hong Kong (meaning a place in Hong Kong waters at which a vessel is not underway, i.e. the vessel is made fast to the shore, at anchor or moored to buoys).

The Air Pollution Control (Ocean Going Vessels) (Fuel at Berth) Regulations are due to enter into force on 1st July 2015.

The new legislation requires vessels to use fuel oil with a sulphur content not exceeding 0.5% by weight, or Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) or any other fuel approved by the Director of Environmental Protection when at berth. Vessels are, however, not required to comply with the requirements when switching between fuel types during the first hour after arrival (all fast to a berth or buoys, or brought up at anchor), and the last hour prior to departure (let go the last line or anchor aweigh). Vessels may also utilise technology that achieves equivalent or lower sulphur emissions than would be achieved using compliant fuel oil, subject to an exemption being granted by the Air Pollution Control Authority. Dates and times of arrival, switching to / and from compliant fuel, and departure are to be recorded in a vessel’s log book, and the relevant records retained onboard for a period of not less than three years.

Masters and owners of vessels found to be using non-compliant fuel oil at berth will be liable on conviction to a maximum fine of HK$ 200,000 (approximately US$ 26,000) and six months in prison. Where particulars are not recorded, records are not retained or false records are provided to the authorities, masters and owners will be liable on conviction to a maximum fine of HK$ 50,000 (approximately US$ 6,500) and three months in prison.

When a vessel has been found to be using non-compliant fuel while at berth, it is of interest that the legislation permits the following defences, amongst others, to any charges that may be brought:

(a)   “that the person – (i) exercised all due diligence to prevent the contravention of section 4(1); but (ii) was misled by the supplier of the marine fuel used by the vessel at the time of the contravention as to the sulphur content of the marine fuel;”

(b)   “that the person – (i) exercised all due diligence, from the beginning of the vessel’s voyage to Hong Kong until the time of the contravention, to obtain low sulphur marine fuel intended for use in the vessel after the arrival of the vessel in Hong Kong; but (ii) failed to obtain such fuel;”

Where compliance with the legislation will “pose a risk to the safety of the vessel”, an exemption may be granted by the Air Pollution Control Authority for one port call. When a vessel is complying by the use of alternative technology; an exemption, valid for three years, must be obtained from the Authority. Applications for exemptions must be made at least 14 days prior to a vessel’s arrival in Hong Kong waters.

It is reported that the existing fuel switching incentive scheme is going to be extended until 2018, and although details have not yet been published, it is likely that a sulphur limit of as low as 0.1% may be introduced for vessels to be eligible for the incentives provided by the scheme.

Members requiring further guidance should contact the Loss Prevention department.