There is no question that this year will be a crucial year when it comes to the protection of Taiwan’s marine environment and air quality.
On one hand, the election outcome determines whether Taiwan will ratchet up coal burning and other air pollution and energy-related policies and actions.
On the other, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) on Jan. 1, introduced demands that the sulfur oxide content of marine fuel be reduced to 0.5 percent to prevent sulfur oxide pollution, and that the content be reduced to 0.1 percent in the Baltic, North Sea and North American emission control areas.
Sulfur-related legislation is goal-oriented, and it allows the use of exhaust scrubbers and other methods to achieve emission goals. This would undoubtedly threaten Taiwan’s air quality and marine environment.
It has been determined that sulfur oxide burned in marine diesel engines is harmful to humans and could cause respiratory and lung disease. It also results in acid rain, which is harmful to buildings, agricultural produce, aquatic species and the marine environment.
A reduction in sulfur oxide also reduces the amount of particulate matter (PM). According to a Finnish study commissioned by the IMO, a failure to reduce the amount of sulfur oxide emissions from boats and ships would cause the untimely death of more than 570,000 people from this year through 2025.
Prior to the sulfur restrictions, several governments, including Beijing, announced and implemented related legislation.
The Shanghai Municipal Transportation Commission estimated that incrementally implementing the legislation over the next five years would lead to a reduction of PM2.5 — particulate matter smaller than 2.5 micrometers — and sulfur oxide emissions from boats by 65 percent and 30 percent respectively.
THE RIGHT SOLUTIONS
In response to these new regulations, many shipping companies have been using exhaust scrubbers, and there are estimates that at least 4,000 ships are to install exhaust scrubbers this year.
Most of the scrubbers currently installed on ships use open environmental systems that emit the scrubbed wastewater into the sea.
To protect the marine environment, the use of this kind of open environmental system has already been banned in Germany and other European countries, along the Californian coast, in Singapore and Malaysia, as well as in the Pearl River and Yangtze River deltas and the Bohai Sea. Before entering these waters or ports, ships must switch to fuel that meets regulations.
AT A CROSSROADS
Taiwan has two alternatives: The first is to introduce and effectively enforce its own regulations in line with international treaties to improve air quality and show its concern for public health, while simultaneously protecting Taiwan’s marine environment.
The second is to ignore the developments and changes occurring as maritime authorities in neighboring countries demand that ships reduce air and marine emissions.
Taiwanese waters and ports would then become a haven for ships that do not comply with regulations and standards, and Taiwan would continue to sacrifice its air quality and marine environment.
Hua Jian is a professor in National Taiwan Ocean University’s marine engineering department.
Translated by Perry Svensson
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