China’s domestic shipping industry has been integral to the efficient freight network supporting the country’s extraordinary economic growth in the past four decades. Domestic shipping is receiving a boost as the government works towards shifting more freight from trucks to less polluting modes, such as shipping and rail. While ships are doubtless a cleaner freight mode than trucks on a per ton-km basis, they have also been subject to less stringent emission standards. Over 70 percent of inland waterway vessels in operation were launched before any marine air pollution regulations existed in China. Some inland waterway vessels are more polluting than the most outdated trucks allowed to legally operate in China.
China’s current policies have considerably reduced shipping sulfur oxide (SOx) and particulate emissions but have limited effects on reducing NOx, which is a precursor of ozone and contributes to ambient particulate levels. This report reviews programs introduced in Europe and the United States to curb air pollution from domestic shipping, with a focus on those that target NOx emissions. The results of these programs can assist in formulating effective clean air policies for inland and coastal shipping, which could advance development of low/zero-emission shipping in China. By stimulating the transition toward low/zero-emission shipping, China could not only achieve better control of ground level ozone, but also achieve green shipping development.