It is well known that areas in Asia, specifically Hong Kong and Beijing, are reputable for their dangerous air pollution and constant smog. In response, Hong Kong has begun to implement restrictions for the transportation industry regarding fuel and emissions, while even offering up to 50% savings on port fees for those vessels switching to fuel that doesn’t contain sulfur. However, these incentives aren’t enough to make the switch for some large container-shipping vessels, because it is simply too expensive to switch from the dirtier oil. When transportation companies refuse to use clean fuel, it gives them a competitive advantage that energy-conscious companies won’t tolerate any longer.
Smog in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Xian resulted in 8,572 deaths in the year 2012; 3,000 of these deaths alone were in Hong Kong. Government regulation is desperately needed in this area, especially because those few companies that do use low-sulfur fuel promise to switch back to dirty fuel in order to maintain the competitive advantage. Using clean energy costs over two million dollars a year for the world’s biggest shipping company, Maersk Line. The incentives Hong Kong currently offers just do not add up to this extra expense.
Hong Kong is currently involved in the creation of an emissions policy that would require cleaner fuel in the Pearl River Delta waters. Optimistically, this would greatly diminish the sulfur dioxide emissions from ships, which is easily one of Hong Kong’s greatest pollution problems. These regulations will hopefully be a stepping stone for other environmental policies that will reduce the amount of air pollution to healthy levels once again.