Domestic Emission Control Areas – China & Hong Kong

The Maritime Safety Administration of the People’s Republic of China (MSA) has published an ‘Implementation Plan on Domestic Emission Control Areas in Waters of the Pearl River Delta, the Yangtze River Delta and Bohai Rim (Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei)’. The document, which includes maps is available to download here.

The plan requires ships to meet international conventions and the domestic regulations of China in terms of controlling SOx, NOx and PM emissions to air.

There is also a progressive reduction in allowable fuel sulphur in the 3 DECA’s.

The use of fuel with a sulphur content exceeding 0.50% m/m is prohibited for vessels berthed at any of the ‘core ports’ on and after 1st January 2017, excluding the first hour after arrival and last hour before departure.

Ship operators do however need to remain watchful, as the sulphur limits have been implemented ahead of schedule in a number of ports including ports not designated as core (see update below).

The core ports named within each DECA are:

Pearl River Delta – Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Zhuhai
Yangtze River Delta- Shanghai, Ningbo-Zhoushan, Suzhou and Nantong
Bohai Rim- Tianjin, Qinhuangdao, Tangshan and Huanghua.

This will be extended to ships at berth in all ports within the DECA’s from 1st January 2018 and then to all ships entering the DECA’s from 1st January 2019.

Alternatively, scrubbers are allowed as a means of providing an equivalent level of SOx emission control.

A further assessment will be undertaken before end 2019 to decide if the fuel sulphur limit should be reduced to 0.10% m/m, whether the geographical limits of the DECA’s should be extended or if other control measures should be introduced.

Update – September 2017

Several Chinese local authorities have announced earlier implementation of the emission control measures.

Within the Yangtze River Delta ECA, the implementation of the 0.5%m/m sulphur limit began on April 1, 2016, applying to ships at berth in the core ports of Shanghai, Ningbo-Zhoushan, Suzhou and Nantong ports

Within the Pearl River Delta ECA, ships were required to use fuel that does not exceed 0.5%m/m sulphur content while at berth in Shenzhen port (including Yantian, Shekou, Chiwan, Mawan, Dachan Bay) as of October 1, 2016.

The latest notifications of early implementation have been announced by the Maritime Safety Administrations of Zhejiang and Jiangsu Provinces. As of September 1, 2017, ships are required to use fuel with sulfur content of 0.5%m/m or less at berth in all ports within the ECA’s of Zhejiang and Jiangsu Provinces, which are both part of the Yangtze River Delta ECA.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong as a special administrative region within the Pearl River Delta DECA has similar fuel sulphur limits for vessels at berth and will also impose the 0.50% m/m limit for all vessels entering waters under its jurisdiction from beginning 2019.

Again scrubbers are allowed, however the exemption does require an application to use a scrubber to be submitted at least 14 days before arrival into the PRD:

Are there any exemptions?

A vessel may be exempted from using compliant fuel if that vessel uses technology which can reduce SO2 reduction at least as effectively as using low sulphur marine fuel or the compliance with the fuel switch at berth requirement will pose a risk to the safety of the vessel.

Application for exemption must be in writing in a specified form with supporting documents to the Environmental Protection Department at least 14 days in advance.

  1. Application form 6-1a 
  2. Application form 6-1

The link to the recently published “A Guide to the Air Pollution Control (Ocean Going Vessels)(Fuel at Berth) Regulation” can be found at