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Friends of the Earth (HK) urges the government to take action due to concerns about the pollution at the Kai Tak cruise terminal

(19 January 2013, Press Release) The new government admitted for the first time in its maiden policy address that shipping pollution has become Hong Kong’s largest source of pollution since early 2011, that it has exceeded the amount of pollution that comes from the power plants in relation to the pollutants of suspended particles, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide. The Government has been negligent in handling this problem which continues to worsen. Friends of the Earth (HK) said that the Kai Tak cruise terminal will start operation in June and the Chief Executive wants to turn it into a theme park - "Kai Tak Leap”. Friends of the Earth (HK) questioned whether “the authorities only cared about the profits from tourism receipts as they ignore the fact that the cruises’ exhaust gas will pose a grave health threat to the 280,000 residents of the district and that we at FoE HK are worried that Kai Tak will become a new landmark when, at the same time, it will also become the city of exhaust.”

We went through the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of the development of Kai Tak and discovered that the Environmental Protection Department has known all along that the air pollution will exceed the limit, and that the sulfur dioxide levels will exceed nearly four times the limit (see table). If the updated air quality objectives are used, then the levels will exceed the limit by more than 12 times.

Friends of the Earth (HK) pointed out that when the EIA report was discussed in the past, panel members expressed concern that the cruise liners would cause air quality problems, but the project proponent argued that the government would gradually tighten the regulations on shipping fuel when they are berthed in the city, and that there will be shore power facilities to reduce emissions. However, the supposed gatekeeper, the EPA, failed to clarify what the relevant policy schedule was, and by accepting recklessly the proposed measures for the installation of a central air-conditioning system in order to bring relief from the polluted air, and by letting the EIA clearance go ahead, the EPA has in fact shown a dereliction of its duty.

Kai Tak cruise terminal air pollution exceeds emissions standard summary


Amount that is expected to affect people (an average concentration / ug/m3 amount during a 24-hour period))

Current AQO/exceeds the limits by multiple times

Year 2014 AQO/ exceeds the limits by multiple times



350/3.85 times

125/12.58 times



180/0.27 times

100/0.49 times

NO2 (one hour average)


300/1.78 times

200/2.675 times

Source: EPA



The scope andimpactmitigation measures that werementionedintheEIAreport:

Regarding the planned “air quality sensitive receptors "(sensitive receiver), only the proposed tourist center will be affected, but the central air-conditioning system will be installed. If the air inlet location of these receptors is appropriate, it is expected that the centre will not be affected by bad air quality.


Over the years, the Government has not collected data on the cruise’s emissions and therefore is not aware of the seriousness of the problem, nor at resolving it with the right type of action. According to the data of the think tank Civic Exchange, the Ocean Terminal’s sulfur dioxide emissions alone were equivalent to the annual emissions of  vehicles.


Ocean Terminal (2007)

Total vehicle emissions (2010)

Sulfur dioxide

252 tonnes

286 tonnes

Source: Civic Exchange

The Kai Tak cruise berths will start to operate in June and although in the first year, only five cruise liners will berth there, in the second year of 2014, it will increase to 11. However, we should never underestimate this number though it is small. According to the statistics from a German environmental organization, Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU), 15 mega-cruise liners’ emissions of sulfur dioxide is equivalent to the total emission of 760 million cars.

Friends of the Earth (HK) criticized such actions, "Kowloon East is the focus of the government's future development areas, and the authorities had stressed that they had considered the introduction of low-carbon transport, so it is really ironic then that they are allowing the cruise’s fierce spray of pollutants to harm residents and travelers with toxic air. We will remind them that the cruise terminal that is located at the centre of Victoria Harbour would pollute the air and that this will threaten the health of the residents of the areas in the vicinity of the eastern Island.”

Although the policy address to the Legislative Council calls for funding the construction of shore power facilities, it does not mean that the problem has been resolved. FoE (HK) raised the following concerns:

  1. When one applies for funding, the berth will not have been put into service in time, and this means that shore power facilities cannot be put into timely usage and the residents will then have to bear the bad air.
  2. As the measures are non-mandatory, the cruise companies will have the right to choose not to use shore power, exhaust air will thus be emitted, and it will come down to whether the authorities will have any corresponding measures that they can react with.
  3. For those cruise liners that could not use shore power, Is there any mid-term measure such as switching fuel with low sulfur content fuel when they berth in the city?

Friends of the Earth urges the government departments to collaborate, by way of regulations or management measures, to demand that cruise liners use shore power while berthing or that they switch to low sulfur content fuel to reduce their emissions.


Usage of shore power, switching fuel when berthing, and the usage of heavy fuel emissions

Emissions (g/KWG)

nitrogen oxides

sulfur dioxide

respiratory suspended particulates

The sulfur content of diesel fuel (2.7%)




The reduced sulfur content of diesel fuel (0.1%)




Power at shore




Difference of  amounts








For enquiries: Ms Melonie Chau, Senior Environmental Affairs Officer, Friends of the Earth (HK), tel: 2528 5588

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