Environmental Effects of the Shipping Industry

I don’t usually give much credence to Daily Mail articles—given the paper’s editorial stance and propensity for junk food news—but I made an exception for one penned by Fred Pearce, New Scientist‘s environmental consultant.

Still not completely free from sensationalism, Pearce looks at the pollution emitted by the shipping industry, particularly some of the world’s largest container ships.

Because of their colossal engines, each as heavy as a small ship, these super-vessels use as much fuel as small power stations.

But, unlike power stations or cars, they can burn the cheapest, filthiest, high-sulphur fuel [bunker fuel]: the thick residues left behind in refineries after the lighter liquids have been taken. The stuff nobody on land is allowed to use. […]

Thanks to the IMO‘s rules, the largest ships can each emit as much as 5,000 tons of sulphur in a year – the same as 50 million typical cars, each emitting an average of 100 grams of sulphur a year.

With an estimated 800 million cars driving around the planet, that means 16 super-ships can emit as much sulphur as the world fleet of cars.

Before I come to any personal conclusions on this, I would like to see figures on the environmental effects of the feasible alternatives. After all, the scale of these container ships is staggering:

The only ships mentioned by name in the article, the Emma Mærsk and the seven other Maersk PS-Class ships, are all the equal largest container ships in the world. All are a few feet shy of quarter a mile long, have gross tonnage of over 150,000 and can hold upwards of 11,000 shipping containers. I find these figures hard to comprehend.

via The Browser