China has issued new regulations that pertain to the designation of three key sulphur Emission Control Areas (ECA) effective, in some cases, as of 1 January. Further ECAs will come into force between 2016 and 2019.

The designation of the Pearl River Delta, Yangtze River Delta and Bohai Bay waters as sulphur ECAs will render them the first of their kind beyond the realms of Europe and North America. Oceangoing vessels will be required to use fuel containing less than 0.5 per cent fuel as of 1 January 2019.

Eleven key ports within these three designated zones - Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Zhujiang, Shanghai, Ningbo-Zhousan, Suzhou, Nantong, Tianjin, Qinhuangdao, Tangshan and Huanghua - have been allowed to apply the new restrictions as of 1 January 2016 in order to counter the negative effects of air pollution along the coast.

By 1 January 2017, all ports within the three designated zones will be forced to comply with the above sulphur restrictions. By 1 January 2019, the regulation will extend to all ships operating within 20 miles of the Chinese coastline.

It should be mentioned, that while carrying the name ‘ECA’, these restrictions have no link to the IMO or MARPOL. Therefore the means of enforcement are, as yet, unclear.

While China is yet to prove itself a bone fide superyacht cruising destination, nor indeed the hot bed of new build activity people once hoped it to be, steps taken to improve the conditions of the air and water may go some distance to remedying this in the future.