News / Asia

Hong Kong Golfers Tee Off With World's First Hybrid Ferry Fleet

With air pollution clouding life in Hong Kong, the territory's only public golf course is taking innovative steps to help alleviate the problem.

By World Health Organization standards, Hong Kong's air is so polluted it is only safe to breathe 41 days a year. Cars and power stations, as well as factories in southern China, are blamed for the haze.

But scientists say ships also damage the air in this city, home to one of the world's busiest ports. Marine transportation is now responsible for almost 10 percent of the pollution. C.M. Wong, a public health expert at the University of Hong Kong, has been studying local air quality for nearly 20 years.

"Hong Kong is an important port," said C.M. Wong. "Marine traffic becomes a very major part of air pollution in Hong Kong. They burn things called residual oil or bunker fuel oil. This fuel has a very high sulfur content. The problem is growing."

Sulfur dioxide, says Dr. Wong, is a significant cause of heart and lung disease. His team estimates that sulfur dioxide, along with ozone, nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter, cost Hong Kong $2.2 billion a year in hospitalization costs and lost productivity. In 2010, they say, air pollution has already caused 480 premature deaths.

But one vessel might kick-start the effort to clean up Hong Kong's sea air - the sleek blue and yellow catamaran, the Solar Golf.

The 100-seat boat recently began operating as the world's first commercial hybrid ferry service, here in this island-dotted territory. It runs between Hong Kong Island and a public golf course on Kau Sai Chau Island.

It will soon be joined by three sister ships, one of which is equipped as a floating classroom to teach children more about renewable energy.

"The vessels have hybrid solar-power electrical and diesel engines, which can operate in parallel to save up to 50 percent in fuel consumption and about HK$2.5 million (US$320,000) a year in operating costs in comparison with the existing ferries," said Gillian Leung, the golf course spokeswoman. "Lightweight materials in the hull help save energy and the solar panels will last at least 15 years."

The captain, Leung Kam-yiu, gives a pre-departure briefing and he's very excited because today is the first time he has taken sole command of the Solar Golf.

He also explained more about how the parallel engine system works: out at sea the ferry uses low-sulfur diesel fuel, and in coastal waters, the crew switches to the solar-charged electric "E" motor to minimize on-shore noise and air pollution.

The new ferries are by no means Kau Sai Chau's only green initiative. All 205 golf carts on the course have also been converted to solar power.

Combined, Leung estimates the new ferries and golf carts will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 1,280 tons a year - the equivalent annual absorption of 188,000 mature pine trees.

Prentice Koo of Hong Kong Greenpeace thinks that, although comparatively small, Kau Sai Chau's efforts are important because the government response to the renewable energy debate has been weak.

"The government only has a policy recommendation to achieve one to two percent renewable energy by 2012," said Koo. "It's very low target compared with China."

He says the government needs to do better. The investment, Koo says, is in the well-being of future generations.

You May Like

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Battle With Islamic State Militants Carries Domestic Risks

Despite Western concerns that IS militants are preparing a Jordanian offensive, analysts call the kingdom's solid intel a strong deterrent More

Asian-Americans Assume Office in Record Numbers

Steadily deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Comanche Chief Quanah Parker’s Century-Old House Falling Apart

One of the most fascinating people in U.S. history was Quanah Parker, the last chief of the American Indian tribe, the Comanche. He was the son of a Comanche warrior and a white woman who had been captured by the Indians. Parker was a fierce warrior until 1875 when he led his people to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and took on a new, peaceful life. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Cache, Oklahoma, Quanah’s image remains strong among his people, but part of his heritage is in danger of disappearing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid