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

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

Video Scientists Say We Need Softer Robots

Today’s robots are mostly hard, rigid machines, with sharp edges and forceful movements, but researchers at Carnegie Mellon University say they should be softer and therefore safer 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.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs