Forget the Baltic Sea. Forget even the US's emissions control area (ECA). Plans are at an early stage for what could be the world's most serious ECA. With the environment near the top of Beijing's agenda following massive popular agitation over the grim state of the nation's air, the Ministry of Environmental Protection said it is seeking public feedback on the idea of establishing an ECA along its 14,500km coastline.
"Environmental pollution problems caused by shipping are becoming more evident," Xiong Yuehui, an official with the ministry, said in a statement on the ministry's website, adding that China had 172,600 vessels at the end of 2013.
He estimated that the shipping sector accounted for 8.4% of China's sulphur dioxide emissions and 11.3% of nitrogen oxide emissions in 2013.
Hong Kong has led the way for China in promoting the idea of an ECA, something it has been discussing in extending to neighbouring ports in Guangdong province in southern China.
Recently, Beijing said it would give tax cuts to ships and cars that emit less pollution, but this is the first official pronouncement of an ECA from a government official.
China's increasingly dominant position in world trade means that it accounts for one in two containers moved, more than 70% of global seaborne iron ore trade and a leading slice of seaborne oil trades, meaning a national ECA would force a majority of shipowners worldwide to review their fleets