South Korea introduces speed limits and ECAs for ships

South Korea has introduced environmental laws applying voluntary speed limits domestically for ships and emission control areas, reports North P&I Club.

The Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries introduced the “Special Act on Air Quality Improvement in Port and Other Areas ” on April 2nd 2019, with the Act coming into force on January 1st this year.

The first stage was a voluntary vessel speed reduction program, which took effect from December 2019. The speed reduction applies to South Korea’s five major ports (Busan, Ulsan, Yeosu, Gwangyang and Incheon). Each area spans a radius of 20nm, measured from a specific lighthouse in each port.

Ships that voluntarily reduce their speed (12 knots for container ships and car-carriers, 10 knots for other ship types) will enjoy discounts at their port entry/leave fees.

Meanwhile, from September 1st 2020, vessels at berth or at anchor in the port areas of Incheon, Pyeongtaek and Dangjin, Yeosu and Gwangyang, Busan and Ulsan are restricted to burning fuel with a maximum sulphur content of 0.10%.

The changeover to compliant fuel must take place within one hour of arrival and must not change back until within one hour before departure.

South Korean sulphur-limiting regulations are likely to be expanded from January 1st 2022, where all vessels must operate on 0.10% sulphur max fuel whenever operating in designated zones around the aforementioned ports – these zones will form the Korean ECA.

Meanwhile, South Korea is also to revamp safety policies on deep-sea fishing boats. The Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries said last week that, together with shipowners and financial firms, it would raise a fund worth KRW170bn won ($146m) to replace fishing boats that are more than four decades old.

South Korea would contribute KRW85bn of the sum.

An official from the ministry said that it would also evaluate the safety of fishing boats aged built 35 or more years ago and that it would bolster regulations on used ships that are imported.

It was hoped that this would reduce the average age of its deep-sea fishing boats to 25 years by 2025, compared with the current 30 years of age.

South Korea will seek to improve the welfare of crewmen by enhancing their working environment, for example by increasing the size of their living space on board.

Other projects include providing the vessels with internet access and test-run telemedicine programs for fishermen. Foreign workers make up about three-quarters of the crew on local fishing boats. South Korea plans to increase the awareness of labour laws for employers.

With all these measures, South Korea plans to join the Cape Town Agreement of the International Maritime Organization by 2023, along with the International Labour Organization’s convention on fishermen by 2025.