Wednesday, 29 May 2013

How effective will the new Proposals to Enhance Dark Smoke Control on Marine Vessels be?

On 27 May 2013 the Transport and Housing Bureau  briefed the Legislative Council Panel on Economic Development on “Proposals to Enhance Dark Smoke Control on Marine Vessels” (Paper CB(1) 1073/12-13(05) refers). See the link below:

Proposed new legislation

Paragraph 8 of this briefing states:

“In line with overseas practice, we propose that Cap.548 and Cap.313 be amended to make it an offence for a vessel, that is a local vessel in respect of Cap.548 and an OGV in respect of Cap.313, to emit dark smoke which is as dark as or darker than shade 2 on the Ringelmann Chart for 3 minutes or more continuously at any one time”.

New proposals already in effect through Code of Practice

In fact, the Marine Department has already implemented this proposal. In the Code of Practice - Safety Standards for Class IV Vessels (issued under Section 8 of the Merchant Shipping (Local Vessels) Ordinance, Cap 548), Section 3.15 on Machinery Installations states:

Any engine fitted on a vessel should be properly maintained at all time free from dark smoke emission. In this regard, during the final inspection for initial and periodic survey, engine performance condition check would include smoke emission test using Ringelmann Chart. When the dark smoke emitted is as dark as or darker than Shade 2 of the Ringelmann Chart and is emitted for a continuous period of more than 3 minutes, the emission is considered not acceptable”.

See the link below:

What effect has this “Code of Practice” had on New World First Ferry?

On 31 January 2013, Hong Kong Coast Watch contacted New World First Ferry asking them when they were going to clean up dark smoke pollution caused by their ferries. Included in their response on 7 February 2013, New World First Ferry Services stated:

“Currently, every First Ferry vessel will undergo annual docking to ensure that the black smoke emitted is below level two of Ringelmann smoke chart for three minutes, that is stipulated by the Marine Department”.


Far from using the Code of Practice to reduce vessel pollution, New World First Ferry is using it as a benchmark to measure what is tolerated.

In response to a reporter’s query on the briefing given to LegCo, “A spokeswoman for New World First Ferry said the company is committed to follow the law when the amendments are introduced”. (Smoke detector benchmark will aid crackdown on dirty vessels. SCMP. Johnny Tam. 28 May 2013).

Given this attitude, it is clear that the proposed new legislation will have no effect on the behavior of New World First Ferry, who even when complying with the Code of Practice, still has the dubious distinction of being one of Hong Kong’s worst dark smoke polluters. 

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