Opinion: What could the Vikings ever do for us?

Green Shipping Seminar

Wednesday was Norwegian Maritime Day. Fortunately for our local maritime community a sizeable number of Norwegians chose the Hong Kong Maritime Museum for their celebrations. But they came with a message.

Norway is one of the leading maritime nations when it comes to clean shipping.  So in a seminar organised by Innovation Norway entitled Green Shipping the visitors were keen to offer suggestions on how to deal with the ship element of Hong Kong’s pollution problems.

This was a high-powered delegation. In addition to representatives from the Norwegian Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries, the Norwegian Maritime Authority, and Export Credit Norway; the Norwegian Consul in Guangzhou was on hand to welcome delegates.  Guest of honour Norway’s Ambassador to China, H.E. Svein Sæther, opened the proceedings, and was later seen taking in two lungs of relatively clean Hong Kong air before flying back to Beijing.

Leader in clean fuel technology

In the past 15 years Norway has made tremendous leaps in clean fuel technology. While here in Asia most of us are still happy to be cooking with gas, Norway was firing up its first LNG-fuelled vessel in 2000.

The country now operates 56 LNG-fuelled ships or 70% of the world’s LNG-powered fleet. In addition to ships powered by LNG, a government-led strategy has engendered research into LNG/gas electrical propulsion, fuel cell auxiliary power, Li-ion battery energy storage, and scrubbers. Sadly however there is no truth in rumours of secret R&D into the potential of wind-up mechanisms.

Christine Loh
Ms Christine Loh Kung-wai Under Secretary for the Environment arrives to address the Green Shipping seminar


Of course, necessity can be the mother of prevention; flagging up the need for ships trading in emission control areas to use fuel oil with sulphur content not exceeding 0.10% from 1 January 2015, probably helped concentrate the best technical minds in Norway. And to be fair to other nations that have not been so quick off the mark remember Norway is situated so close to vast reserves of natural gas if you were living there and it had much of an odour before mercaptan was added you’d be walking around with a peg on your nose.

Indeed another incentive for innovation was a population that begrudged exporting more than 90% of its gas production to Europe so that the customers could carry on cooking more interesting cuisine than that available at home.

Whatever the reasons, and it is true that Norway has offered carrots as well as sticks in its pursuit of pristine air, the results of the clean fuel options including low sulphur bunkers have been immensely impressive.

In the Danish ECA SOx reductions of up to 60% have been recorded since the introduction of the new sulphur limits. Comparable results have also come in from Germany. Strangely, if results for Norway were announced I must have missed them.

Norway also scores highly on enforcement. In 2015 the Norwegian Maritime Authority sampled 200 ships and plans 265 documents inspections and the sampling of 200 ships. In common with other nations with ECA areas Norway has found about 5% of ships inspected were non-compliant. The means of infringement detection is thoroughly 21st century.


A warning to ship operators. If a drone is spotted in the skies above your vessel it is not there to take saucy photos of the Captain sprawled naked on a deck chair for a Facebook page. It’s sniffing your emissions!

Another very efficient way of detecting infringements is the use of fast scanning instruments, which detect sulphur content on the vessel. Samples can be analysed in 30-60 seconds. One Hong Kong observer expressed fears about using such an instrument.  He’d heard they are so powerfully radioactive when in use the canteen could be frying for the next two weeks.


Finally there is the punishment. If the ship is a little bit naughty it could be up for a fine of NOK72,000 or about US$8,000. Crew of a very naughty ship will be prosecuted in a criminal court with fines and a maximum two years imprisonment. Thus far fines handed out have been in the region of US$25,000 – the highest – US$50,000. This of course reflects the essentially gentle nature of the Norwegians. Requirements in the EU (in addition to Marpol Annex VI) include detentions and penalties for ship and supplier up to 6m EUR or US$67.9m.

Please visit tomorrow to read how Hong Kong responded.







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