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15 ships=all cars in the world!
The shipping industry pollutes dramatically more than other modes of transport. It’s in dire need of revival

For the ‘green obsessed’, it isn’t tough to spot pirate ships in global waters. As far as they are concerned, every ship fits the bill. Shipping has been a massive enabler to global trade, but its contribution to global warming is so alarming beyond imagination.

The severity of the damage caused by shipping came to global attention with the Exxon Valdez oil spill that occurred in the Prince William Sound, Alaska, in 1989. The resulting pollution killed over 400,000 seabirds, about 1,000 sea otters and uncounted large numbers of fish. Today, shipping is responsible for approximately 3-4% of global emissions. It emits around 18-30% of total Nitrogen Oxide and 9% Sulphur Oxide in the air and water. Pollution by shipping affects not only the climate but also bio-diversity, food and human health. The industry burns over 300 million tonnes of bunker fuel every year. The 15 biggest ships of the world create as much SO pollution as all cars of the world combined. A large ship (diesel-powered engine, travelling for around 280 days a year) can generate roughly 5,200 tonnes of Sulphur Oxide. There are around 90,000 cargo ships that travel the oceans. Studies have also revealed that one giant container ship emits almost the same amount of cancerous chemicals as 50 million cars.

US academic research shows that cargo ships indirectly claim over 60,000 lives and cost over $330 billion annually. The Danish Government’s environmental agency adds that the shipping emissions cost them around $5 billion every year and claimed lives of about 1,000 people. Add to that passenger ships. A passenger cruise generates about 210,000 gallons of black water, 1,000,000 gallons of gray water, 37,000 gallons of oily bilge water and more than eight tonnes of solid waste in a week. Over one in ten children are suffering from asthma in the world’s major port cities. Shipping is not regulated and taxed as needed; similar to aviation, since it transports about 90% of all world’s traded goods. Governments in different countries have initiated programs though without major success.
For example, UK proposed a cap-and-trade to encourage companies to follow environment protection guidelines. The World Port Climate Change Declaration conference also emphasised on the importance of greening the shipping industry. Seatrade Middle East Maritime unveiled new innovations in green shipping in 2008. Even companies like Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines are installing smokeless gas-turbine engines or biofuel engines. Many have undertaken research to develop engines to fuel environment friendly CNG and LNG vehicles to avoid harmful emissions like NO2 and SO2. While regulation is imperative, focusing on a few other areas will greatly help.

Primarily, the oil that the ships use is of a very low grade. Technological innovations (use of hydrodynamics in propellers, replacing fossil fuel by renewable sources, and taking care of speed reduction and fleet maintenance) can reduce emissions. But the scale of these initiatives has to be far grander than it is today.

By:- Akram Haque

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