After China began opening up in the 1980s, Hong Kong’s port became one of the busiest in the world, serving as a major gateway for trade with the lucrative dragon economy. This has had a disastrous effect on the city’s air, as emissions from ships are about as bad as they can get. Container ships and cruise liners must keep their engines running in port to maintain power and services. Most burn a cheap and highly toxic derivative of crude oil known as bunker fuel. Because Hong Kong’s port is so close to its metropolitan areas, it only takes a puff of breeze to carry the ships’ fumes into the urban precinct.
It’s no surprise that the marine transport sector has become the city’s top polluter, responsible for more than half the emissions of sulphur dioxide, a third of nitrogen oxides and almost 40 per cent of the tiny toxic particles that invade the lungs. So what is being done to clean things up?