With China framing public health as a basic human right, the country’s Marine Safety Administration is doing its part to curb the detrimental health effects of the shipping industry.
In a recent white paper, the Chinese government emphasised its commitment to protecting the health and well-being of the Chinese people.
“Prosperity for all is impossible without health for all,” the white paper said.
“Health for all is a solemn promise to the people by the CPC (Communist Party of China) and the Chinese government.”
While the report focuses on improvements to medical and health services since the party’s 18th National Congress in November 2012, the sentiment of change and progress centred on well-being is evident in areas outside the direct remit of medicine and health.
With a 2016 study finding that ship emissions cause more than 24,000 premature deaths in East Asia – 18,000 of which were in China alone – the MSA has focused its efforts on ensuring ships comply with pollution prevention measures.
The MSA aims to ensure the Chinese fleet complies with international conventions such as the International Maritime Organisation’s sulphur emissions regulation.
The regulation stipulates ships must reduce sulphur emissions from 3.5 per cent to 0.5 per cent by 2020, a contentious move that was nonetheless upheld by the IMO in 2016.
According to the IMO’s head of air pollution and energy efficiency, vessels found to be non-compliant by 2020 could be detained or even rendered “unseaworthy”, thus potentially affecting indemnity in the event of an insurance claim.
The message is clear, while the cost of emission reduction compliance on ships will be high, the cost of non-compliance will, quite literally, be paralysing.
In an effort to reduce the impact of ship pollutants, and to encourage IMO and domestic regulation compliance within its waters, China expanded its Domestic Emissions Control Areas earlier this year to include all ports within the Bohai-rim Waters, the Yangtze River Delta, and the Pearl River Delta.
This means all ships at berth must use low-sulphur fuels, or be fitted with equipment to reduce noxious emissions, while in the control areas.
The Chinese government, the marine authorities and local port cities use a combination of carrot and stick measures to encourage change.
Disincentives such as fines and the detention of ships face those deemed to be non-compliant through onboard ship and bunker note inspections or random fuel oil sampling.
Financial incentives in Shenzhen, in the south of the country, encourage at-berth fuel switching, promote the use of onshore power supply and back the use of liquefied natural gas.
China’s aim to reduce ship emissions is encouraging; it is poised to be a leader in green shipping in the region, if not the world.
But key to the country’s development is collaboration. Indeed, a European study on incentive schemes for promoting green shipping implores China to adopt a harmonised and collaborative approach to encourage shipowners/operators to reduce air pollution.
Collaboration is certainly not a pipedream.
The Chinese government’s latest five-year plan aims to “put into effect the philosophy of innovative, coordinated, green, open, and shared development”.
Chinese authorities clearly recognise the need to “open up” in order to integrate into the world economy.
As a regional neighbour, Australia has the opportunity to be an integral part of China’s ever-deepening integration.
The shipping industry could be a major facilitator of change in this regard.
The LNG Marine Fuel Institute is a big believer in cross-national collaboration as the foundation of sustainable clean energy practice.
It is the basis of its engagement with key players in the LNG marine fuel sector and the reason it is a strong advocate of the Green Corridor.
The Green Corridor Joint Industry Project is a collaborative initiative to design a LNG dual-fuel Newcastlemax and very large ore carrier trading primarily between north-west Australia and China.
The LNG Marine Fuel Institute promotes, researches and produces timely and economically valuable studies to support LNG as a marine fuel in the Green Corridor between Australia and China.
We welcome and encourage the support and participation of Chinese companies in the institute.
Captain Walter P. Purio, CEO of LNG Marine Fuel Institute, Perth, Western Australia
Colleen Harmer, Senior Research Officer, P and H Marine Australasia