Key Recommendation 4:
Strengthen Control over Ship Emission


Current Status:

On ocean-going vessels pollution – Since 1 July 2015, HKSAR became the first port in Asia to mandate ‘Fuel Switch at Berth’ to regulate ocean-going vessels to switch to fuel with maximum 0.5% Sulphur content m/m (mass by mass). Subsequently, from 1 January 2019 onwards, HKSAR extended the regulation to cover all HKSAR waters.

According to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), for ships operating outside designated Emission Control Areas, the IMO has set the same limit for Sulphur content in fuel oil of 0.5% – effective since 1 January 2020 [1].

As a leader in legislating reductions in ship emissions, and with thousands of people residing and working close to one of busiest container ports and shipping routes in the world, Hong Kong should continue to tighten to protect public health.


On local vessels pollution – Since the trial on hybrid / electric ferry was announced in 2018 Policy Address, there was finally the first hybrid (diesel-electric) ferry launched in July 2020.

Study [2] shows that, if all the ferries operating the seven in-harbour routes are replaced by electric ferries, the biggest environmental benefit would be the achievement of zero emission of air pollutants from these ferries in the Victoria Harbour. It is anticipated that both Sulphur Dioxide and Nitrogen Oxides concentration levels will be lowered quite significantly, especially the portion contributed by the outlying island ferry operation. Also, air quality improvement will be more noticeable during high air pollution days with weak or no wind, as a major source of air pollution in the harbour area will be eliminated.



4.1       To maximize health gain, CAN urges the HKSAR Government to collaborate with the PRD to set up an Emission Control Area in PRD waters, including Hong Kong waters, with a limit on Sulphur content in marine fuel of 0.1 %. By tightening the standard from currently 0.5% to 0.1% upper limit of Sulphur content, there will be a lot more health impact reduction potential (avoidable deaths and percentage reduction) achieved [3].

4.2       CAN urges the HKSAR Government to subsidize to accelerate transformation to electric ferries for the in-harbour routes and hybrid electric ferries for the outlying island routes.


[1] European Commission (2020). Cleaner Air in 2020: 0.5% sulphur cap for ships enters into force worldwide. Retrieved from:

[2] Transus Consultants (2017). Provision of Service to Identify Green Ferry Options that are Technically Feasible in Local Context Summary Report, p.5, SR. 22) Retrieved from:

[3] Civic Exchange (2012). A Price Worth Paying: The Case for Controlling Marine Emissions in the Pearl River Delta. Retrieved from:

Story posted on
25th Sep, 2020


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