"Just 15 of the world's biggest ships may now emit as much pollution as all the world's 760m cars"


Photo: Wikipedia, CC

Holy Cr...

The Guardian has a pretty shocking piece about giant cargo ships and the pollution they emit. The title of this post is a line from "confidential data from maritime industry insiders", and according to them, the low-grade ship bunker fuel that powers cargo ships has up to 2,000 times the sulphur content of diesel fuel used in US, and European automobiles and emission control is practically non-existent.


Hard to be closer to houses than that. Photo: Wikipedia, GFDL

We already wrote about some studies by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the University of Colorado, Boulder, that showed that cargo ships emitted about as much air pollution as half the world's cars, and that sounded like a lot, but if the Guardian is right, this was widely over-optimistic.

What Should be Done to Clean Up Cargo Ships?
It can be very hard to regulate anything in international waters, but studies show that buffer zones in territorial waters could help. The US EPA says that a buffer that could be in place by next year could "save 8,000 lives a year with new air quality standards cutting sulphur in fuel by 98%, particulate matter by 85% and nitrogen oxide emissions by 80%." Something similar could be done in around Europe, where some of the busiest shipping lanes in the world are.

But as TreeHugger writer John Laumer pointed out, this probably would only shift the problem around. The most polluting cargo ships would then be sent to developing nation shipping lanes and air-pollution in the poorest countries - which already have it bad - could actually increase.

A potential solution might be a global treaty through the UN, but even that has downsides... But something will need to be done, because if the Guardian's sources are correct, the current situation is simply ridiculous. Cargo ships will need clean fuel, better emission controls, and they will need to use the power of the wind and sun.

From The Guardian:

Shipping by numbers

The world's biggest container ships have 109,000 horsepower engines which weigh 2,300 tons.

Each ship expects to operate 24hrs a day for about 280 days a year

There are 90,000 ocean-going cargo ships

Shipping is responsible for 18-30% of all the world's nitrogen oxide (NOx) pollution and 9% of the global sulphur oxide (SOx) pollution.

One large ship can generate about 5,000 tonnes of sulphur oxide (SOx) pollution in a year

70% of all ship emissions are within 400km of land.

85% of all ship pollution is in the northern hemisphere.

Shipping is responsible for 3.5% to 4% of all climate change emissions

Here we can see that the primary concern with shipping is air-pollution ("US academic research which showed that pollution from the world's 90,000 cargo ships leads to 60,000 deaths a year in the US alone and costs up to $330bn per year in health costs from lung and heart diseases"). It does contribute significantly to global warming, but about 5-6 times less than land-based transportation.

Via The Guardian

More Pollution Articles
One More Reason Oil Spills Are Bad: Surface Cleanup can Make it Worse for Fish Below
Plastic Found in 1/3 of Leatherback Turtles, According to Study
Lions Poisoned by Pesticides in East-Africa
Fish Near Water Treatment Plants are Harmed by Human Drugs

Related Content on Treehugger.com