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July 14th, 2008:

Ban On Idling Vehicles Likely

HK Standard – (2008-07-14 13:46:38)

The green policy to ban idling vehicle engines look set to be launched within the next 12 months, Secretary for Environment Edward Yau Tang-wah said today.

Yau said both the public and the district councils had come to a consensus that Hong Kong had to move ahead with the policy to protect the environment despite the concerns expressed by the transport sector.

A five-month public consultation on the proposal to ban idling vehicle engines ended in March.

The government document suggests if a driver does not switch off his vehicle’s engine when it is idle, he will fined HK$320.

Shougang Steel Announces Games Output Cut

Reuters in Beijing – Updated on Jul 14, 2008

One of China’s biggest steel makers, Shougang, has announced it will slash production at its Beijing plant, bowing to pressure to help clean the city’s grimy skies for the Olympic Games.

Shougang Iron and Steel Group will “limit production during the 2008 Olympic Games period, reducing as far as possible pollution emissions during the Games period,” it said in a statement over the weekend on the website for the Shenzhen stock exchange, where the Group is listed.

Confirming earlier statements, the Group said that in the third quarter output of iron, steel and steel products at its Beijing plant will shrink by 50 per cent compared with the same period last year.

It will produce 540,000 tonnes of iron, 560,000 tonnes of crude steel and 550,000 tonnes of steel products in the third quarter, it said.

It had run at higher rates earlier to ensure yearly production of 4 million tonnes from its Beijing mill.

Beijing’s chronic pollution has been one of the biggest headaches for Games organisers, who have vowed that restrictions on traffic and factories will bring blue skies and easy breathing for athletes during the Games, from August 8-24.

The Chinese capital is just weeks away from the Games. Rain and winds brought blue skies on Saturday, but humid, overcast weather over past weeks has often kept city residents wheezing in a shroud of haze, dust and fumes.

Shougang, whose name means “Capital Steel”, is the worst polluter in the city. It is moving production to a 10 million tonne, state-of-the-art mill on the nearby coast of Hebei province that is slated to be fully ready by 2010.

Shougang was originally due to end all operations at its mill in the west of the city before the Olympics, but now plans to fully close that plant by the end of 2010.

City officials told Shougang to restrict production to 200,000 tonnes per month over the Games period, a cut that will reduce its emissions by 70 per cent, a company executive said last year.

The Shougang announcement did not say when it will begin the production cuts, but the Beijing government issued rules in April ordering industrial firms such as Shougang Group to reduce or stop production from July 20.

As part of the Games anti-pollution drive, hundreds of factories in provinces surrounding Beijing will also face production cuts or freezes over coming weeks.

From July 1, vehicles that fail to meet emissions standards have been banned from entering downtown Beijing. And from July 20, Beijing will launch a traffic control system to take half of the city’s 3 million cars off the road, using an odd-even licence plate system.

Entrepreneur Floats Plan For Seaplanes To Macau

Scheduled service awaiting approval from government

Gary Cheung – Updated on Jul 14, 2008 – SCMP

Seaplanes flying over Victoria Harbour and taking passengers to and from Macau will become a reality in the foreseeable future if the government approves a plan to relaunch the flights, which form part of the collective memory of Hongkongers.

WaterfrontAir, a firm founded by Canadian entrepreneur Michael Agopsowicz, plans to operate a scheduled seaplane service between a new Kai Tai Waterfront Aerodrome and the Pak On ferry terminal near Macau’s Cotai Strip.

The company intends to use a fleet of 18-seater DHC-6 Twin Otter floatplanes for the flights, which would take about 20 minutes.

It plans to create a licensed water aerodrome opposite the old Kai Tak airport runway.

Passengers would be taken to the Kowloon City ferry pier after the seaplanes landed.

The Tourism Commission and the Tourism Board have given their backing to the proposal because it would enhance Hong Kong’s appeal as a city with diversity and fun. But the project first needs to pass an environmental-impact assessment.

Mr Agopsowicz, also director of the company, said he would look for investors for the project and planned to commission an environmental-impact assessment and a noise- impact assessment in the second half of the year.

The firm plans to charge about HK$1,500 for a one-way trip, compared with HK$2,200 to HK$2,400 for a helicopter trip between Hong Kong and Macau or about HK$150 for a jetfoil. It plans to run 20 flights a day.

The firm estimates 150,000 visitors will take the trips every year.

Mr Agopsowicz said he discussed the concept with Permanent Secretary for Transport and Housing Francis Ho Suen-wai on March 18.

In a letter to Mr Agopsowicz on May 5, the bureau said: “From the aviation point of view, we have no objection in principle to your idea, but the feasibility of the idea hinges on the satisfactory resolution of a wide range of technical issues.”

A bureau spokeswoman said these issues concerned the feasibility of the idea from the perspectives of civil aviation, district planning, land-use planning, environmental impact and interface with marine activities.

“The Tourism Commission considers that an alternative means of fast transportation to Macau should be a [welcome] addition to enhance connectivity and choice. The seaplanes championed by you look attractive and elegant, and are good for leisure travel,” the bureau said in its letter to Mr Agopsowicz.

The commission was of the view that the plan would enhance Hong Kong’s appeal.

In a letter to Mr Agopsowicz last month, Tourism Board executive director Anthony Lau Chun-hon said: “Not only can the service offer users the opportunity to view Hong Kong’s spectacular skyline and cityscape over Victoria Harbour, it can also strengthen Hong Kong’s image as a major cosmopolitan city.”

Scheduled seaplanes between Hong Kong and Macau were operated between the 1930s and 1950s.

Mr Agopsowicz said seaplanes did not have a significant environmental impact. “They compare very favourably to conventional motorised boats in terms of air and water pollution,” he said.

He added that the DHC-6 planes he planned to deploy for the services were much quieter than helicopters and the service would operate in daytime only.

Mr Agopsowicz said seaplane services did not require a huge amount of investment and he estimated that the start-up investment for the project would be below US$5 million.

Bruce Liu Sing-lee, Kowloon City district councillor representing the Kai Tak constituency, said he would support the proposal if the noise level was acceptable.

“I think the seaplane services would create a substantial number of job opportunities for the neighbourhood and the whole Kowloon City district,” Mr Liu said.