China has taken notice by incorporating maritime emissions into its national five-year-plan for transportation. As the world moves toward a cleaner economy, port cities and coastal nations will watch closely to see if China's policies are effective at reducing maritime emissions.
Greening ships and ports is a plank of the Ministry of Transport 's 13th-Five-Year Plan. It declares that by 2020, ship sulfur and nitrogen oxides and particulate matter emissions should be reduced by 65 percent, 20 percent and 30 percent respectively, relative to 2015, in China's three most prosperous coastal regions – Pearl River Delta (PRD), the Yangtze River Delta (YRD), and Bohai Rim.
Introduce domestic emission control areas (DECAs): China is setting DECAs in its three major coastal regions, requiring ships to use marine fuel of not more than 5,000 parts per million sulfur content through 2019. From 2020, the government will consider stricter requirement of 1,000 parts per million sulfur content, and to extend the geographical scope of DECAs. However, it is still behind the schedule of the existing ECAs set by the International Maritime Organization.
Switch ships to cleaner fuels: Right now, most ships are powered by heavy fuel oil. But by 2020, China aims to double its LNG-fueled vessels, a move supported by adding LNG facilities to port terminals.
Connect seaports with railways: Freight right now is unloaded from ships and carried inland mostly by trucks. Trucking, an emissions-intensive process, could be avoided if railways were directly connected with ports and operations synced for greater efficiency.
In recent years, WRI China has focused on promoting low emission zones not only in urban land areas, but also in coastal areas, researching how to reduce emissions from ships. What we see so far is that this not only requires better policies, technologies and financing solutions, but also knowledge and awareness from China's government, industry and the public.
As the first step, we have developed guidelines to evaluate emission inventories and the social impact of maritime air pollutions. By working with partners, we are conducting training program in several Chinese cities such as Qingdao and Guangzhou, with the aim to test our methodologies and influence the policies by science-based evidence, and finally seek to scale our efforts regionally among maritime stakeholders and achieve a healthier coastal environment.