China and Hong Kong ship pollution threatens U.S. coastlines

Ports reveal unprecedented surge in harmful emissions; officials blame COVID-19 logjam at ports

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Federal officials have issued an unusual statement of emergency to the ports of San Francisco and Long Beach to address an unprecedented surge in vessels from China and Hong Kong that appear to be polluting the Pacific Ocean.

At issue is a large cargo vessel known as a “flag” in both countries, which has been arriving in San Francisco’s and Long Beach’s ports since late April carrying a mix of products ranging from electronics to chemicals, with some containing potentially hazardous materials.

Federal officials have asked the Coast Guard to use extraordinary measures to deal with the “flag” ships. The ports are also offering the ship owners a $7,500 fine in lieu of prosecution.

“Right now, all kinds of illegal goods are in the Pacific,” U.S. Maritime Administration spokesman Dave Smith told The Associated Press on Thursday.

“That brings the potential for harm to our coastlines and to the American economy.”

Smith said he was aware of about five flag ships arriving in the U.S. in recent days, but hadn’t heard of any problems. He said the agency will start an investigation soon into the matter.

The Coast Guard has jurisdiction over all U.S. ports as well as international bridges and harbors, including those in China, which is known to be the world’s biggest importer of liquefied natural gas, oil, and other goods.

The Chinese government has said it is worried about the safety of the country’s shipping industry and has urged the government to take measures to prevent ship pollution.

As the nation is locked down to address the spread of the coronavirus worldwide, the world’s most populous nation is also reeling from a supply shortage of critical medical equipment. Millions of medical workers are in lockdown in China, many of them caring for the sick and elderly.

Tens of thousands have died from the coronavirus, which has infected 10,700

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