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September, 2011:

The uphill battle to curb idling engines

South China Morning Post — 23 Sept. 2011

We have been waiting far too long for a law on idling engines. What should have been a relatively simple step in the battle against air pollution has been debated for 14 years. Now, legislation is finally on the way. But the law to take effect in December will have far too many exemptions and it will be difficult to enforce. There is good reason to doubt whether it will really make a difference.

The need for an effective law was highlighted by this newspaper’s recent testing of pollution levels at idling engine hot spots such as taxi stands and minibus stops. The carbon monoxide measurements recorded with a hand-held device on a single day last month are, of course, neither comprehensive nor conclusive. But they do provide an indication of the higher levels of air pollution we have to endure in places where there are many engines idling.

A carbon monoxide reading of 23,000 micrograms per cubic metre of air, was recorded on a stretch of Mong Kok’s Tung Choi Street lined by dozens of idling minibuses. That was 10 times the level of a nearby road with flowing traffic and no idling vehicles, and 30 times more than the reading at the district’s air quality monitoring station. At a minibus terminus in Lockhart Road, Causeway Bay, the temperature was 38 degrees Celsius, five higher than at the Observatory. More research is needed, but it is clear that idling engines have a significant impact and the new law must be effective if it is to have any meaning at all.

Legislators’ approval of the law in March followed much wrangling with transport interest groups. The proposals have been watered down so much that we appear to have lost sight of the objective – to curb the idling of engines by motorists. Among the 20 exemptions are taxis at ranks, buses and school vans that contain passengers, and all vehicles when the weather is particularly hot or wet. Drivers will have three minutes grace every hour. Enforcing this law is not going to be easy. It will be interesting to see if this law can really be enforced. The HK$320 penalty, less than for littering, is not much of a deterrent anyway.

The 260 wardens who police traffic will have watching out for idling engine offenders added to their duties. They will be joined by just 18 specially-trained officers. A weak law and inadequate enforcement add up to minimal change in roadside air pollution readings.

Officials, some of whom walked to work to mark No Car Day yesterday, have touted the law as a significant step in our city’s fight against air pollution, but its value is more symbolic. That need not be the case, though, if enforcement of the law is coupled with close monitoring, a thorough assessment of its impact and a determination to get it right.

Hong Kong Construction Association Visionary Transport Infrastructure 2030

Download PDF : vitran2030

Recycling is key to waste management

South China Morning Post – 21 Sept. 2011

Refuse disposal is a problem for all cities, but it is especially troublesome for Shenzhen, one of the world’s fastest-growing. Just as in Hong Kong, landfills are near capacity and there is little room for more, so the government is looking to incineration to solve the problem. Three incinerators are planned by 2015, among them the biggest ever built, which together would handle 80 per cent of the almost five million tonnes of waste the city generates each year. In an ever more environmentally aware China, though, getting residents’ approval will not be easy, nor is putting so much faith in burning trash a responsible way to go about waste management.

Incineration should be only a small part of the waste solution, not the linchpin. At the heart of waste management has to be recycling, which Hong Kong has also failed to adequately tackle. If the experience of European cities is any guide, even the most efficient incinerators can only burn 70 per cent of rubbish, leaving a considerable amount of waste for landfills. This does not account for the air pollution created nor the inconvenience to nearby residents.

Putting in place an incineration programme so quickly would be unthinkable elsewhere. Usually, at least a decade should pass between the idea leaving the drawing board and becoming reality so that proper impact and environmental assessments can be carried out and public concerns addressed. Shenzhen’s authorities claim to have carried out consultations to find out where best to locate the facilities. If they want to avoid the protests over similar schemes in Guangzhou and a petrochemical plant in Dalian , they have to ensure the process has been thorough.

Authorities have to work with the interests of the people they serve in mind. Recycling, not landfills or incineration, should be the centrepiece of a waste disposal strategy. Making communities a part of the decision-making process is essential for their success. That requires public debate, transparency and long-term planning.

Interview with Dr J Mackay

Interview with Dr J Mackay

UN Summit, Interview with Judith Mackay on Summit and NCD

20 September 2011

WBEZ, Chicago National Public Radio

Worldview. Archived at:

Freight volumes decline dramatically to/from Hong Kong reflecting global freight trends

Cathay PacificHong Kong International AirportAsia Airfreight Terminal (AAT) and Hong KongAir Cargo Terminals Limited’s (HACTL) respective Aug-2011 traffic results revealed two distinctive trends: Passenger traffic to/from Hong Kong remained strong over the summer peak while the weakness in the freight market continued in the month. The situation in Hong Kong is playing out elsewhere. According to IATA said recently that global freight markets are expected to remain weak throughout the remainder of the year, although a pick-up is likely in the lead up to the Christmas period.

The global air freight market (domestic and international) is now around 10% weaker than pre-recession levels, driven by domestic declines, IATA said.

The past few years have highlighted the financial volatility and the susceptibility of air freight to worldwide economic conditions. The sector witnessed a massive slump in demand in 2008, followed by a sharp rebound in 2009 and 1H2010, before trending to a steady decline from 3Q2010 into 2011. As noted byCathay Pacific CEO John Slosar in the Aug-2011 edition of staff magazine CX World, the current “financial and economic whirlwind” is a “stark reminder that we can’t take anything for granted”.

While a pick-up in the lead-up to Christmas is anticipated, concerns remain about the arrival of new capacity, ordered during the pre-2008 boom and occurring amid the introduction of three new widebody cargo aircraft models (the B777F in 2009, the A320-200F in 2010 and the B747-8F this year).

A brief consumer confidence snapshot

According to The Conference Board last month, US consumer confidence “deteriorated sharply in August, as consumers grew significantly more pessimistic about the short-term outlook. The index is now at its lowest level in more than two years.” Indicators measuring CEO confidence and employment trends also weakened.

The European Commission Economic and Finance Affairs similarly stated the Economic Sentiment Indicator (ESI) declined by 5.0 points to 97.3 in the EU and by 4.7 points to 98.3 in the euro area in Aug-2011. “This decline resulted from a broad-based deterioration in sentiment across the sectors, with losses in confidence being particularly marked in services, retail trade and among consumers”, it said.

Japanese consumer confidence was steady in Aug-2011 after rising in the previous three months, as the economy continued to recover from the 11-Mar-2011 earthquake, the Japanese Cabinet Office said this month. Concerns centre around faltering global growth and concerns that a strong yen may dampen private spending in coming months.

Meanwhile, Chinese consumer sentiment among households, entrepreneurs and bankers weakened in the most recent quarter, according to a survey by the People’s Bank of China released this month. Concerns focus around the expected monetary-policy tightening by Beijing, with interest rates set to rise in 4Q2011, while income and job expectations also declined.

Cathay Pacific cargo volume down on both 2010 and 2009 levels in Aug-2011; gradual improvement expected over coming weeks

Cathay Pacific last month stated it expects its freight business to slow in 3Q2011 as a result of economic uncertainties. The carrier stated the cargo business performed “reasonably” in the first quarter of the year, but was appreciably weaker in the second quarter. Cathay noted that demand for cargo shipments from its two main markets, Hong Kong and mainland China, was weaker than expected in the second quarter.

Moving into the third quarter and Cathay’s overall cargo and mail tonnage showed a significant decline in Aug-2011 compared to 2010 levels. The market from Asia to Europe and trans-Pacific remained weak, though “intra-Asia continued to perform solidly”, according to GM Cargo Sales and Marketing James Woodrow. Meanwhile, additional freighter frequencies to Australia were added for Sep-2011 due to strong imports driven by the strong Australian dollar.

Cathay Pacific and Dragonair combined reported a fifth consecutive month of cargo volume reductions. The carriers handled 131,448 tonnes of cargo and mail in Aug-2011, an 11.8% year-on-year decline – to be marginally weaker than the Aug-2009 level. According to Mr Woodrow, “the first half of September overall remained soft as expected, though tonnages should start to gradually improve over the coming weeks.”

Cathay Pacific cargo volume (kg, mill): 2009 to 2011

Source: CAPA – Centre for Aviation and airline reports

Cathay Pacific’s cargo and mail load factor also weakened notably in Aug-2011, down 7.8 ppts to 64.9%, marking the 12th consecutive month of year-on-year cargo load factor declines. Cargo load factors have been weaker than both 2010 and 2009 levels for three consecutive months.

Cathay Pacific cargo load factor (%): 2009 to 2011

Source: CAPA – Centre for Aviation and airline reports

The significant load factor weakness occurred as cargo capacity (available cargo/mail tonne kilometres) increased 1%, marking the 18th consecutive month of capacity growth, compared to a 9.7% reduction in traffic (cargo and mail tonne kilometres flown). Cargo traffic has declined on a year-on-year basis for the past five months, but remains stronger compared to 2009 levels.

Cathay Pacific Revenue Freight Tonne Kilometres (mill): 2009 to 2011

Source: CAPA – Centre for Aviation and airline reports

Cathay Pacific Available Freight Tonne Kilometres (bill): 2009 to 2011

Source: CAPA – Centre for Aviation and airline reports

Strong traffic growth in summer peak for Cathay Pacific. Yields continue strong performance

It was however a different story for passenger traffic at Cathay Pacific. Traffic remained strong in the summer peak, with the increase in traffic (RPKs) in line with capacity (ASKs) growth.

“We continued to see a strong performance in the region, in particular from Southeast Asia, South Koreaand the secondary Chinese cities, though demand in the Middle East remained weak. Our premium traffic continued to have a strong performance and we are seeing good growth in terms of both volume and yield,” Cathay Pacific GM Revenue Management James Tong said.

The carrier has separately stated that demand for economy class seats was slightly less than expected. Demand for premium class seats remained strong, despite economic uncertainties in a number of world economies. Yields rose in both first and business classes

Cathay Pacific and Dragonair combined handled 2.5 million passengers in Ag-2011, a 3.6% year-on-year increase, and load factors averaged 84.2%, a 0.2 ppt year-on-year decline.

Cathay Pacific passenger numbers (mill): 2009 to 2011

Source: CAPA – Centre for Aviation and airline reports

Cathay Pacific Airways Passenger Load Factor (2009 to 2011)

Source: CAPA – Centre for Aviation and airline reports

Cathay Pacific CEO John Slosar in late Aug-2011 stated Cathay has no plans to delay new aircraft as Asia is avoiding the worst of the global economic slowdown. The carrier is scheduled to receive eight new aircraft, including five freighters, in 2H2011, followed by 16 new aircraft in 2012. Cathay is “still pretty confident” about the outlook, Mr Slosar said.

Hong Kong International Airport reports cargo decline

Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) similarly noted a 7.8% year-on-year decline in cargo levels in Aug-2011 to 319,000 tonnes, reflecting weaker economic conditions in the US and Europe.

Hong Kong International Airport Air Cargo (tonnes, ‘000s): 2009 to 2011

Source: CAPA – Centre for Aviation and airport reports

The cargo declines were mainly attributed to an 11% year-on-year drop in export volume. Imports and transshipments also declined, by 5% and 1% respectively. Europe, North America, Taiwan and Japanexperienced double-digit year-on-year decreases in overall cargo traffic.

Hong Kong International Airport reports record passenger traffic in Aug-2011

On a more positive note, HKIA reported another busy month for passenger traffic, with passenger traffic and flight movements setting new monthly records in Aug-2011. Fuelled by the burgeoning demand during the traditional summer peak season, passenger traffic continued its upswing, registering a year-on-year growth of 6.5% to a new record high of 5 million.

Hong Kong International Airport passenger numbers (mill): 2009 to 2011

Source: CAPA – Centre for Aviation and airport reports

The growth in passenger traffic in Aug-2011 was mainly driven by visitors’ traffic and transfer/transit passengers which saw growth of 10% and 8% respectively over the same period last year. Passenger traffic to/from South East Asia performed particularly well.

During the month, flight movements also reached a new high of 28,940, up 6.7% year on year, breaking the previous record made in Mar-2011.

Hong Kong International Airport aircraft movements (‘000s): 2009 to 2011

Source: CAPA – Centre for Aviation and airport reports

Airport Authority Hong Kong CEO Stanley Hui Hon-chung stated the airport has seen continuous growth in passengers using the cross-boundary transport. During the month, a new high of more than 249,000 passengers used the ferry services at the SkyPier connecting HKIA to eight ports in the Pearl River Delta, which represented a year-on-year growth of 11%. Mr Hui added that the growth momentum in passenger traffic at HKIA would continue as another travel peak is anticipated during the National Day Golden Week holidays.

AAT and HACTL report declined in cargo traffic. Export cargo hit the hardest. Transshipment levels increase

Asia Airfreight Terminal Co Ltd (AAT) stated tonnage throughput in Aug-2011 fell 8% to 55,203 tonnes. Export cargo registered 38,260 tonnes, a decline of 12% year-on-year. Import cargo volume weakened slightly, by 0.3% to 16,133 tonnes. Trans-shipment cargo volume was 811 tonnes, a 68% year-on-year increase.

Commenting on the result, AAT General Manager for Corporate Development, Kenneth Yeung said, “Although export has been affected by the US and European economy, import growth has been more encouraging. Maybe a sign of more balanced trade.“

Hong Kong Air Cargo Terminals Limited (Hactl) similarly reported a 9.3% year-on-year decline in air cargo tonnage throughput for Aug-2011 to 221,375 tonnes. Export volume in Aug-2011 slumped 13.3% to 117,771 tonnes and import volumes declined 8.9% to 55,345 tonnes. The transshipment volume was 48,259 tonnes in Aug-2011, to be the only growth area (+1.7%).

Outlook: Freight weakness a concern

The positive passenger traffic results in the peak month of Aug-2011 provided some welcome news for Cathay Pacific and Hong Kong International Airport amid an increasingly weak cargo sector. While cargo volumes traditionally pick-up ahead of the Christmas peak, an increasing and continued imbalance between capacity and demand is a challenge for freight operators worldwide. This combination of plentiful capacity and weak export demand from China could spell trouble for cargo load factors, yields and profitability in the months ahead.


Cathay Pacific Aug-2011 traffic highlights

Source: Cathay Pacific

Cathay Pacific Aug-2011 traffic highlights

Source: Cathay Pacific

Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) traffic highlights for Aug-2011

(1) +/- % refers to changes over the same period of the previous year.
(2) Passenger and cargo figures are rounded to the nearest 1,000, and flight movements to the nearest 5.
(3) Total figure for passengers include originating, terminating, transfer and transit passengers. Transfer and transit passengers are counted twice.
(4) Cargo Handled includes import, export and transshipment (counted twice) cargo. Air mail is excluded.
(5) Flight Movements includes civil international passenger, cargo and non-revenue flights. Military and local flights are excluded
Source: Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA)

Asia Airfreight Terminal Co Ltd traffic highlights for eight months to  Aug-2011

Source: Asia Airfreight Terminal Co Ltd

Hong Kong Air Cargo Terminals Limited (Hactl) traffic highlights for Aug-2011

Source: Hong Kong Air Cargo Terminals Limited (Hactl)

Idling engines ramp up pollution

South China Morning Post – 19 Sept. 2011

Tests show much higher carbon monoxide levels and hotter temperatures when streets are full of stationary vehicles rather than moving traffic

Streets full of stationary vehicles with their engines running could be 10 times more polluted than busy roads full of slow-moving traffic, new research has revealed.

Such streets could also be warmer than surrounding urban areas by as much as five degrees Celsius, according to a study by the South China Morning Post (SEHK: 0583,announcementsnews) . Environmentalists said the research could provide useful clues as to the effectiveness of a ban on idling engines, which takes effect in December.

Using a handheld device capable of measuring the carbon monoxide level every two seconds, readings were taken in seven streets in Causeway Bay and Mong Kok on the afternoon of August 13, while a very-hot-weather warning was in effect.

A section of Tung Choi Street in Mong Kok between Argyle Street and Fife Street – where dozens of minibuses were idling – had the highest carbon monoxide reading, at 23,223 micrograms per cubic metre of air.

While that was below the maximum level of carbon monoxide set in the government’s air quality objectives, which is 30,000mcg, it was up to 12 times higher than the reading on a stretch of nearby Fife Street, where traffic was sporadic and there were no idling vehicles. It was also 30 times the level recorded by the Environmental Protection Department’s Mong Kok air quality monitoring station, near Nathan Road in Prince Edward, at the time.

At a bus stop on Nathan Road, near Fife Street, the Post recorded a carbon monoxide concentration of 2,450mcg.

Readings were also taken at Lockhart Road, Causeway Bay, between Cannon Street and Percival Street. One side of the road is a minibus terminus and the other is often occupied by private vehicles. The carbon monoxide level there was 8,285mcg, while a maximum temperature of 38 degrees was recorded, 5 degrees higher than at the Observatory.

Dr Lau Ngai-ting, of the environment division at the University of Science and Technology, said the results indicated serious pollution, although other environmental factors could have affected the findings.

James Middleton, from campaign group Clear the Air, said Tung Choi Street was a perfect example of the city’s urban canyon effect, whereby walls of tall buildings prevent pollutants from being dispersed.

But he said poor maintenance of minibuses was also to blame.

“Carbon monoxide can be produced if an appliance hasn’t been properly maintained or serviced regularly. How often do you think Hong Kong minibus owners service their vehicles? The correct answer is zero.”

Middleton said busy areas should be turned into low-emission zones in which only hybrid or electric buses would be allowed.

The Environmental Protection Department said the long-awaited ban on idling engines, first suggested in the 1990s, could cut roadside emissions by 1 per cent and help reduce nuisance to passers-by.

Environmentalists say the effectiveness of the ban will still be difficult to assess because the benefits could be offset by emissions from moving traffic nearby.

Lau said much more sophisticated studies would be needed to ascertain exactly how much of a contribution idling engines made to pollution and to evaluate the effectiveness of the ban on idling engines.

“The pollution may not necessarily come from the idling engine alone, as the moving traffic, the wind speed and direction and the urban topography will all have a role to play,” he said.

Lau said it was difficult to pinpoint why such a high reading was recorded in Tung Choi Street. It might be down to the ageing, slow-moving minibuses spewing more fumes, and also the poor air ventilation at the street, he said.

From December, drivers who leave their engines idling will face a fixed penalty of HK$320.

Air quality has long been a cause of concern for Hong Kong. In May, Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen promised to set out new air quality objectives this year to replace the current rules, set in 1987.

Euro 5 and Euro 6 standards: reduction of pollutant emissions from light vehicles

The European Union is introducing stricter limits on pollutant emissions from light road vehicles, particularly for emissions of nitrogen particulates and oxides. The Regulation also includes measures concerning access to information on vehicles and their components and the possibility of introducing tax incentives.


Regulation (EC) No 715/2007 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 June 2007 on type approval of motor vehicles with respect to emissions from light passenger and commercial vehicles (Euro 5 and Euro 6) and on access to vehicle repair and maintenance information.


In order to limit pollution caused by road vehicles, this Regulation introduces common requirements for emissions from motor vehicles and their specific replacement parts (Euro 5 and Euro 6 standards). It also lays down measures improving access to information on vehicle repairs and promoting the rapid production of vehicles in compliance with the provisions of the Regulation.


The Regulation covers vehicles of categories M1, M2, N1 and N2, with a reference mass not exceeding 2 610 kg. This includes, among others, passenger vehicles, vans, and commercial vehicles intended for the transport of passengers or goods or certain other specific uses (for example ambulances), which should have positive-ignition engines (petrol, natural gas or liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) or compressed ignition (diesel engines).

Apart from the vehicles mentioned above (which are covered de facto by the Regulation), vehicle manufacturers may request that vehicles intended for the transport of passengers or goods with a reference mass of between 2 610 kg and 2 840 kg should also be included.

In order to limit as much as possible the negative impact of road vehicles on the environment and health, the Regulation covers a wide range of pollutant emissions: carbon monoxide (CO), non-methane hydrocarbons and total hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulates (PM). It covers tailpipe emissions, evaporative emissions and crankcase emissions.


There are emission limits for each category of pollutant emissions and for the different types of vehicle listed above. These are detailed in Annex I to the Regulation.

Euro 5 standard

Emissions from diesel vehicles:

  • carbon monoxide: 500 mg/km;
  • particulates: 5 mg/km (80% reduction of emissions in comparison to the Euro 4 standard);
  • nitrogen oxides (NOx): 180 mg/km (20% reduction of emissions in comparison to the Euro 4 standard);
  • combined emissions of hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides: 230 mg/km.

Emissions from petrol vehicles or those running on natural gas or LPG:

  • carbon monoxide: 1 000 mg/km;
  • non-methane hydrocarbons: 68 mg/km;
  • total hydrocarbons: 100 mg/km;
  • nitrogen oxides (NOx): 60 mg/km (25% reduction of emissions in comparison to the Euro 4 standard);
  • particulates (solely for lean burn direct-injection petrol vehicles): 5 mg/km (introduction of a limit that did not exist for the Euro 4 standard).

In the case of vans and other light commercial vehicles intended for goods transport, the Regulation includes three categories of emission limits, depending on the reference mass of the vehicle: under 1 305 kg, between 1 305 kg and 1 760 kg, and over 1 760 kg. The limits that apply to the last of the three categories also apply to goods transport vehicles (category N2).

Euro 6 Standard

All vehicles equipped with a diesel engine will be required to substantially reduce their emissions of nitrogen oxides as soon as the Euro 6 standard enters into force. For example, emissions from cars and other vehicles intended to be used for transport will be capped at 80 mg/km (an additional reduction of more than 50% compared to the Euro 5 standard). Combined emissions of hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides from diesel vehicles will also be reduced. These will be capped at, for example, 170 mg/km for cars and other vehicles intended to be used for transport.

Implementation of the standards

As soon as the Euro 5 and Euro 6 standards enter into force, Member States must refuse the approval, registration, sale and introduction of vehicles that do not comply with these emission limits. An additional delay of one year is allowed for goods transport vehicles (category N1, classes II and III, and category N2) and vehicles designed to fulfill specific social needs. Time frame:

  • the Euro 5 standard came into force on 1 September 2009 for the approval of vehicles, and shall apply from 1 January 2011 for the registration and sale of new types of cars;
  • the Euro 6 standard will come into force on 1 September 2014 for the approval of vehicles, and from 1 January 2015 for the registration and sale of new types of cars;

Tax incentives granted by Member States and intended to encourage earlier use of the new limits will be authorised if:

  • they apply for all new vehicles available for sale on the market of a Member State, which meet the requirements of this Regulation before their entry into force;
  • they end on the date the new limits come into force;
  • are worth less than the cost, including fitting, of the devices used on any type of motor vehicle in order to guarantee that the values laid down are not exceeded.


In addition to complying with the emission limits mentioned above, vehicle manufacturers must also ensure that devices fitted to control pollution are able to last for a distance of 160 000 km. In addition, conformity must be checked for a period of 5 years or over a distance of 100 000 km.

The Commission established committees to devise, before 2 July 2008, procedures, tests and specific requirements for the following:

  • tailpipe emissions, including test cycles, low ambient temperature emissions, emissions at idling speed, exhaust gas opacity, and the proper functioning and regeneration of after- treatment systems;
  • evaporative emissions and crankcase emissions;
  • on-board diagnostic systems and the performance of anti-pollution devices while the vehicle is running;
  • durability of anti-pollution devices, replacement parts for emissions control systems, in-service conformity, conformity of production and technical control;
  • carbon dioxide emissions and fuel consumption;
  • hybrid vehicles;
  • extension of approvals and requirements for small manufacturers;
  • requirements for testing equipment;
  • reference fuels, such as petrol, diesel fuel, gas and biofuels;
  • measuring engine power.

Easy and clear access to information on vehicle repair and maintenance is key to guaranteeing free competition on the internal market for information and repair services. To this end, manufacturers must ensure that independent operators have easy, restriction-free and standardised (particularly in terms of compliance with the OASIS standard) access via the internet to information on the repair and upkeep of vehicles, without discrimination in favour of dealerships and official repair workshops. This obligation covers on-board diagnostic systems and their components, diagnostic tools and testing equipment. Charges for accessing such information are permitted if they are reasonable and proportionate.


Although the standards for pollutant emissions have been updated since 1 January 2005 (Euro 4 standard), the EU believes that it is necessary to improve them further, while also considering the implications for the markets and the competitiveness of manufacturers, and the direct and indirect costs for businesses.

This Regulation was drawn up after a wide-ranging consultation with stakeholders. It places the emphasis on reducing emissions of particulates and nitrogen oxides (NOx), particularly for diesel vehicles. It should as a result be possible to achieve marked improvements in health. It should be noted that nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons are ozone precursors.

Lastly, the Regulation amends Directive 70/156/EEC and Directive 2005/55/EC and will repeal, from 2 January 2013, Directives 70/220/EC, 72/306/EEC, 74/290/EEC, 77/102/EEC, 78/665/EEC, 80/1268/EEC, 83/351/EEC, 88/76/EEC, 88/436/EEC, 89/458/EEC, 91/441/EEC, 93/59/EEC, 94/12/EC, 96/44/EC, 96/69/EC, 98/69/EC, 98/77/EC, 99/100/EC, 99/102/EC, 2001/1/EC, 2001/100/EC, 2002/80/EC, 2003/76/EC and 2004/3/EC.

Fuel rules essential for harbour traffic

South China Morning Post – 15 Sept. 2011

The Star Ferry is a Hong Kong icon, as much a part of our history as a tourist attraction. As such, it should be striving to reduce the amount of air pollution created by its ferries. The same goes for other vessels plying their trade in our waters. The unsightly black smoke that pours from their funnels is a poor advertisement for our environmental awareness and the government’s commitment to clearing skies of smog and protecting health. Authorities have to regulate the sector and help firms use cleaner fuels and technology.

There is no more polluting fuel than the bunker oil burned by large vessels, which is many times more harmful to health than the emissions from even the dirtiest diesel used by buses and trucks. The public policy think tank Civic Exchange estimates that 3.8 million people are at risk of being exposed to excessive levels of emissions of sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and other pollutants from shipping and the port at Kwai Chung. Despite this, though, ocean-going shipping remains the only transport sector still unregulated by the government. There is no good reason why ferry and shipping companies should not use cleaner fuel.

The irony is that many want to, but need the authorities to help with regulations, supplies of cleaner fuels and infrastructure. The objective has to be to ensure that all vessels in our waters at least use ultra-low sulphur diesel. It has a sulphur content of no more than 0.005 per cent, considerably less than the 0.5 per cent that ferries and small craft are required to use. Bunker fuel can have as much as 4.5 per cent.

Voluntary schemes are under way and trials have been held. Under the industry-led, unsubsidised, Fair Winds Charter, a number of shipping and cruise lines have agreed to use fuel with a sulphur content of 0.5 per cent or less while at berth in Hong Kong until the end of next year. After a trial use of ultra-low sulphur diesel in its vessels proved unsatisfactory due to engine incompatibility, the Star Ferry Company is engaged in work with the University of Hong Kong to improve scrubber technology. However, as worthwhile as such measures are, without government regulations and assistance, there can be no guarantee of their permanent adoption.

Costs are an obvious concern. Ultra-low sulphur diesel or fuel cleaning technologies are more expensive and the charges are likely to be passed on to consumers of goods carried by ships and ferry passengers. That is especially troublesome for ferry operators, who have low profit margins. But authorities cannot sit on their hands and expect every company to volunteer. Incentives and help with infrastructure will be necessary. Ultimately, though, regulating for clean emissions is essential for Hong Kong’s well-being and image.

Clear the Air says: it’s time to get rid of old polluting buses ! Bring in hybrid buses for use in Low Emission Zones on Nathan Rd, Central, Causeway Bay and Kings Road.

Hong Kong Standard

Oriental Daily News

Reply from EPD

Dear Mr Furner,

Thanks for your enquiries about PM2.5 measurement on 28 August.

PM2.5 is a major part of PM10, accounting for 60% to 70% of the total mass concentration of the latter measured in Hong Kong.  The measurement of PM10 can therefore effectively reflect the levels of PM2.5.  As the sources of PM2.5 are also common to PM10, e.g., power plants, vehicles, industrial sources, etc., the government’s efforts to reduce PM10 concentrations can effectively reduce PM2.5 levels.

To understand the nature and characteristics of the PM2.5 in HK and their correlation with PM10, we have been conducting different projects including speciation studies (analysis of the chemical composition of PM2.5) and continuous measurement at 5 sites in HK.  From time to time, the PM2.5 data from these projects are provided to and used by public members including academics and media for studies and reporting, and are included in different publications and reports.  Here are a few of them :

To enhance our monitoring of PM2.5, we are working to extend the PM2.5 continuous measurement to all stations in Hong Kong with a view to making it a regularly monitored and reported pollutant.  We are now taking steps to install and test PM2.5 samplers in all monitoring stations.  The test runs of the samplers in the network are expected to be completed by end of this year.

From our previous studies and research findings from our local academics, a very significant proportion of particulates including PM10 and PM2.5 measured in Hong Kong are contributed by regional sources.  According to a study by the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology in 2005, the contribution of particulates from regions outside Hong Kong (including Pearl River Delta Region and regions outside PRD) could be some 60% on an annual basis and even higher at 70% during winter.  To alleviate the particulates problem, we have been working with Guangdong Provincial Government on a regional air quality management plan to reduce emissions in the PRD region and making substantial efforts to reduce local emissions of these particulates, in particular those from two major sources, namely power plants and motor vehicles.  Measures implemented in the past years include:

  • Power sector – banning new coal-fired generation units since 1997, imposing stringent emission caps on power plants since 2005, requiring power plants to increase the use of natural gas for electricity generation, requiring retrofitting of advanced air pollution control equipment to existing coal-fired generation units,
  • Motor vehicles – requiring the use of cleaner motor vehicle fuels such as LPG and the virtually sulphur-free Euro V diesel and petrol, mandating the retrofit of particulate reduction devices in pre-Euro diesel vehicles, subsidizing the replacement of old commercial diesel vehicles and providing tax incentives for environment-friendly vehicles.  Franchised bus companies have also retrofitted their Euro II and III buses with diesel particulate filters, which could reduce their particulates emissions by over 80%.

The above efforts have borne fruits.  Between 2005 and 2010, the annual PM2.5 concentrations in Hong Kong reduced by 26%.  The results of our speciation studies show that, between 2001 and 2009, the levels of elemental and organic carbon compounds (which are major constituents of PM2.5 coming from motor vehicles) at the roadside have reduced by more than 50%.  This clearly reflects that our control measures implemented in the past decade have very effectively reduced the PM2.5 emissions from our local vehicle fleet.

Despite the above improvements, the Government is endeavouring to introduce more new measures for improving the air quality including cutting of particulate emissions, such as requiring the power companies to maximize the use of the existing natural gas-fired generation units, thereby increasing the share of natural gas in local electricity generation to about 50%; and to prioritize the use of those coal-fired generation units equipped or retrofitted with advanced air pollution control equipment, so as to further tighten the already very stringent emission caps by about 30 to 50% from 2015; introducing relevant regulations to promote energy efficiency for electrical appliances and buildings; proposing emission standards for non-road mobile sources; implementing a host of new measures to reduce emissions from the transport sector, such as a ban on idling vehicles with running engines, a subsidy to encourage early replacement of Euro 2 diesel commercial vehicles with new ones, a trial of retrofitting franchised buses with “Selective Catalytic Reduction” devices to reduce emissions and the Government to fund the retrofit if the trial is proved to be successful; designating pilot Low Emission Zones at busy corridors in Causeway Bay, Central and Mong Kok and setting up a Pilot Green Transport Fund to encourage introducing innovative transport technology, etc.

Best regards,
C. F. Chow, (Mr.)

Senior Environmental Protection Officer, Acting
Environmental Protection Department