Hong Kong – Mandatory Low Sulphur Fuel Regulations

Hong Kong - Mandatory Low Sulphur Fuel Regulations - effective from 1st July 2015

The Hong Kong Government Environmental Protection Department has implemented restrictions on burning fuel oil whilst berthed alongside within the port limits of Hong Kong. The Air Pollution Control (Ocean Going Vessels)(Fuel at Berth) Regulation (the "Regulation") is expected shortly to be promulgated and apply from 1st July 2015.

The Regulation requires all ocean-going vessels (defined as being above 500 GRT) to switch to low-sulphur fuel (or LNG/or similar approved fuels) during the periods the ship is at a berth, excluding the first and last hour of the berthing period. The sulphur content of the fuel may not exceed 0.5%, determined using the test method ES ISO 14596:2007. As the sulphur content required under the Regulation is not a standard fuel grade, it is likely ships will burn ultra low sulphur fuel (0.1%) or gas oil whilst alongside.

The regulations implement a global policy to reduce the sulphur content in fuels in international waters[, such as Europe, where vessels are required to burn fuel with a sulphur content of less than 0.1% when at berth, and 0.5% when within the European EEZ at less than 0.5% by 2020.] 

Documentary Requirements

A log record should be maintained to record the date and time of (i) arrival alongside the berth; (ii) every fuel switch-over operation; (iii) the departure from the berth; together with the specification of the fuel used. The log record should be completed as soon as practicable and retained on-board for three years.

Members are recommended to maintain on board for inspection a document that clearly sets-out the procedures for conducting a fuel switch.

Non Compliance

The Regulation imposes joint and separate criminal sanctions against the owners (including any bareboat charterers and ship manager) and the master. A contravention of the provisions relating to fuel use attracts a maximum fine of HK$200,000 and a maximum imprisonment for six months. Failure to maintain an accurate and timely log book attracts a maximum fine of HK$50,000 and a maximum imprisonment for three months.

Contractual Issues 

Owners and charterers are advised to provide in a charterparty for compliance with any low-sulphur regulations for ports within a ship's defined trading range, especially if this includes Hong Kong. Provisions relating to fuel oil specifications and  loading/unloading obligations should be especially considered. Owners and charterers should establish a common framework for the response of charterparty obligations to the Regulations. 

Owners should also ensure the crew are familiar with the terms of the Regulation and all fuel-switch protocols must clearly be defined and retained on board.Full details of the Regulations are expected to be issued in May 2015, and contemporaneous versions can be found at: http://www.legco.gov.hk/yr14-15/english/subleg/sub15_051.htm

Chris Roberts -Thomas Miller (Hong Kong) Ltd.

Staff Author