An ultra-large crude carrier sailed into the Port of Zhanjiang, bringing 300,000 tons of the stuff for petroleum products and petrochemicals.

The Port of Zhanjiang in South China is on the earliest route of the ancient Maritime Silk Road. It’s counting on petroleum to help revive that legacy. There are high expectations for the black gold to bring in local revenue, but the mindset of development first has changed.

The Zhongke Refinery Complex is a project of Asia’s top refiner Sinopec. Liu Tao, Deputy Manager of its HSSE Department said both environmental protection and economic benefits are taken into consideration, adding that environment can’t be neglected when conflicts occur.

At full capacity, the project would generate annual new taxes of nearly four billion U.S. dollars, benefiting locals and beyond.

The project has invested over half a billion U.S. dollars for environmental protection. Measures are in place even before vessels moor at berths, from containment booms used to contain an oil spill, to shore power that eliminates the air pollution associated with ships, and sewage treatment units all over the complex.

Over 76 percent of polluted water is treated and reused. Some exhaust emissions from residue fluid catalytic crackers contain less than half the nitrogen oxide limit set by authorities.

Still, local residents have to adjust to changes, and that includes the fishermen. Now they ply their boats in other waters. Sometimes when there is no vessel mooring, they come back.

Chen Zixiang has participated in the construction of the port for years. He believes the figures of waste emissions are only part of the story.

Chen said one can easily tell whether there is pollution or not through conditions of the eco-environment, and that fishermen coming back and seabirds flying around shows the environment is well preserved.