Marine POllUTION – smoky ferry

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    Dear Dr. Henry Cheng Kar Shun, Chairman NWS Holdings Limited
    As Chairman of one of the companies owning First Ferry, I would like to bring to your attention (along with relevant Government Departments) the mechanical state and health of some of your ferries plying the outer island passenger routes.

    Given the disgraceful state of Hong Kong’s current air quality (especially today) I was somewhat alarmed to see first hand the amount of emitted exhaust from one of the older generation vessels.

    Under guidelines from ‘Clear the Air’, vessels seen emitting black or nuisance smoke continuously for more than one minute should report the vessel to Marine Department.

    Well as a concerned citizen I am doing just that. The guilty vessel is the heap of junk that left Hong Kong Island at 10:15 to Cheung Chau on 25 October 2006.

    From my experience (and regrettably), Marine Department will not take this incident with the slightest bit of interest and will come up with some red herring such as different shades of smoke and make comparisons with the Ringlemann Chart. As far as I am concerned black smoke is black smoke and there was plenty coming out of the funnel today adding to the already high API.

    Therefore, through this email, I am personally asking you to perhaps heed the Chief Executive’s words derived from the Action Blue Sky Campaign and do what you can to reduce the amount of smoke coming from your aged vessel fleet. I only ask that you try.

    “Every small step taken by each individual to support the clean-air initiatives in our daily lives can help reduce air pollution.”

    Vessel emitting dark smoke along the harbour to discomfort the public could be considered as an instant of public nuisance which contravenes Section 50 of the Shipping and Port Control Ordinance. However, we need your assistance to further pursue this incident. To facilitate our investigation, grateful if you would provide us a witness statement which includes the following details:

    1. Your personnel details (name, ID no., contact address, & etc.).
    2. Date, time, position of the black smoke emission.
    3. type & particulars (name, lic. no., & etc.) of the vessel made the emission.
    4. Description of the emission.
    5. Whether you and/or other people in the vicinity were discomforted by the emission.

    You may send your statement to the Harbour Patrol Section of Marine Department by fax (2385 8260) or by e-mail .

    Now you can all write in and complain if you see any belching/fuming ferries

    Post edited by: CharlieF, at: 2006/10/27 19:45

    Post edited by: Martin, at: 2006/10/31 11:37


    I live on Cheung Chau, and often see ferries belching smoke, especially as they leave piers. Heard of a v few people complaining, but not much happening. One seemed especially bad in February; I sent email with photos (inc the one here) to Env Protection Dept – from where it was forwarded to Marine Dept. Marine Dept replied to me:

    I refer to your complaint dated 21 February 2006 addressed to EPD. According to your information provided, we identified that the ferry sailing from Central to Cheung Chau at 18:30 of 19 February 2006 was "Xin Chao". A follow-up check was conducted on 27 February 2006. It was found that the smoke emission was within Shade 1 and 2 limit of the Ringelmann Chart. There was smoke darker than shade 2 of the Ringelmann Chart during departure and berthing period and the duration was around 20 seconds each. From technical point of view, the smoke emission was not beyond the limit. Please feel free to contact the undersigned should you have any queries. M.Y. Chan Senior Surveyor of Ships Local Vessels Safety Section for Director of Marine

    I’d never heard of the Ringelmann Chart; via quick googling, turns out this was devised in late 19th century: shows shades of grey from light to black; smoke can be compared against the chart. Imprecise, but fairly easy to use.

    Short history of visible emissions and opacity

    Earlier, in August 2005, I emailed First Ferry about smoky ferries; had this reply:

    Thank you for your comments. The vessels are required to undergo annual docking and upon meeting all the requirement, are granted licenses to operate by Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government. We noted your concern and concur with your goodself that smoke emission shall be reduced. For those aged-old ordinary vessels, we have been conducting regular maintenance and trial schemes to keep those vessels at their optimal performance. Thank you for your patronage and comments. Regards, Fiona Fong Customer Service Division New World First Ferry Services Limited

    Just followed up on the Marine Dept reply to Charles Frew (which he posted in first post in this thread):

    I live on Cheung Chau, and Charles Frew has forwarded me your correspondence regarding a smoky ferry from Cheung Chau. I have previously complained to First Ferry and (via the EPD) the Marine Dept regarding smoky ferries; though First Ferry indicated they planned to reduce the smoke, I haven’t seen an improvement.

    I was startled to see, in your email to Mr Frew, “Vessel emitting dark smoke along the harbour to discomfort the public could be considered as an instant of public nuisance”

    This is not a “public nuisance” issue.

    As many scientists – including Professor Anthony Hedley, head of the Dept of Community Medicine of the University of Hong Kong, to whom I am cc’ing this email – have shown, smoky emissions can cause serious health problems, and can even be life threatening.

    Thus, this is a public health issue. I am concerned that your failure to mention this is further evidence that the HK government is adopting a head-in-the-sand-approach to air pollution: as if by not acknowledging the potential severity of impacts on public health, air pollution will be less of an issue.
    CEO Donald Tsang has lately indicated the problem is chiefly cosmetic: do we have nice blue skies. This is a worrisome attitude, which I hope is not prevalent within the Marine Dept. – as a significant proportion of our air pollution is from shipping.

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