China advances Yangtze ECA implementation

Early implementation of the Yangtze River Delta ECA will mean ships must use low-sulphur (0.5%) fuel in the area from October
Early implementation of the Yangtze River Delta ECA will mean ships must use low-sulphur (0.5%) fuel in the area from October
Chinese Port State Control will be asked to take a 'pragmatic' approach to enforcement, said Bennett (creidt: ICS)
Chinese Port State Control will be asked to take a 'pragmatic' approach to enforcement, said Bennett (creidt: ICS)

Ships navigating and berthing in the Yangtze River Delta emission control area (ECA) will have to burn 0.5% sulphur fuel from 1 October, three months earlier than originally planned, after a last-minute notice from the Shanghai Maritime Safety Administration.

The notice, circulated on 27 August and extended to the entire delta area on 30 August by the Zhejiang Maritime Safety Administration, brings the implementation date for sulphur rules for ships underway forward from 1 January 2019. Ships at berth in the Yangtze ECA have been required to burn low-sulphur fuel since 1 April 2016.

The Yangtze River Delta ECA encompasses ports at Shanghai, Ningbo-Zhoushan and Jiaxing as well as their surrounding waters. The remaining two Chinese ECAs, the Pearl River Delta and Bohai Sea Area, will implement the rule in line with the original timeframe, from 1 January next year.

In a circular Standard Club advised that “any fuel change-over operation should be completed before entering or commenced after exiting from the Yangtze River Delta ECA”. Alternative compliance methods including exhaust gas scrubbers and LNG fuel are permitted.

Despite the early implementation, the timetable has not worried industry representatives. Lars Robert Pedersen, deputy secretary general, BIMCO, explained: "The Yangtze ECA is relatively small and ships will consequently use a limited amount of fuel while within the area. Most ships trade with an amount onboard which allows them to call in ports within IMO ECAs or other local air emission restricted areas.

“From a practical perspective, there should be time for most ships to obtain compliant fuel before the deadline. If not and if already en route to ports within the Yangtze ECA, we are sure the authorities would allow bunkering of compliant fuel to take place after first arrival."

However, the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) noted the ‘significant preparations’ some ships would need to make and urged the Chinese authorities to adopt a ‘pragmatic approach to enforcement’.

“China is acting responsibly to improve air quality standards for the millions of people living near its major ports and has previously given the global industry an early warning of the extent of these areas and the emission controls which will apply,” added Simon Bennett, deputy secretary general, ICS. “We trust that the government of China is confident that sufficient compliant fuel is available in local ports.”

ICS has advised its member national associations of these changes and continues to closely monitor the situation with assistance from the Hong Kong Shipowners Association.

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