Shipping pollution 'far more damaging than flying'

A A A

New research suggests that the impact of shipping on climate change has been seriously underestimated and that the industry is currently churning out greenhouse gases at nearly twice the rate of aviation.

Shipping, although traditionally thought of as environmentally friendly, is growing so fast that the pollution it creates is at least 50 per cent higher than previously thought. Maritime emissions are also set to leap by 75 per cent by 2020.

The International Maritime Organisation, the UN body set up to regulate shipping, has set up a working group due to report this year. Research seen by the group suggests previous calculations, which put the total at about 600 million tonnes per year, are signifi-cantly short. The true figure is set to be more than one billion tonnes, according to a confidential report produced for the IMO by Intertanko, the International Association of Independent Tanker Owners.

In comparison, aviation produces an estimated 650 million tonnes. The old figures were based on 2001 estimates, but shipping has grown by 4.5 per cent on average annually.

While other industries have come under pressure to clean up their acts, shipping has so far escaped. Bill Box, from Intertanko, said the industry knows it has been slow to respond. "Shipping has not yet been regulated and for politicians it is the last low hanging fruit," Mr Box said.

In California, the Attorney General has launched a petition aimed at forcing the Environmental Protection Agency to curb emissions of climate change gases from shipping in US waters. In the UK, the Government is under pressure to include shipping in emission targets for the Climate Change Bill next month. And new EU regulations come into force in November to compel ship owners to use cleaner fuel in coastal shipping lanes throughout continental waters.

"Shipping is an invisible industry," said Mr Box. "Ports are away from population centres and many people don't see a ship from one year to another."

The industry serves more than 90 per cent of global trade and as commerce has grown, so has the shipping fleet. At present it is more efficient to ship a container from Beijing to London than it is to transport it 100km by road.

The world fleet of ocean-going vessels stands at 90,000, says Oceana, a US-based ocean protection organisation that is part of a coalition of environmental groups that has signed the California petition. The petition claims that the fleet generates emissions equivalent to nearly 190 million cars, all the vehicles in the US.

Michael Woods, co-chair of the UK Environmental Law Association's climate change working party, said government curbs on pollution were coming sooner than the industry realises. He said that shipping could be included in the European Emissions Trading Scheme.

With land-based polluters already heavily regulated, the shipping industry could provide the most cost-effective way to reduce climate change gases.

Since the 1970s, the bulk of commercial vessels have run on heavy "bunker" fuel, a by-product of the oil refining process for higher grade fuels. One industry insider described it as "the crap that comes out the other end that's half way to being asphalt". It has potentially lethal side effects such as the release of sulphur dioxide, carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide and sulphuric acid.

Recent studies in the US and the Netherlands showed pollutants from ships contribute half of the smog-related sulphur dioxide in Los Angeles. In Rotterdam, North Sea shipping lanes run within 25 miles of the shore, spewing pollution that can travel up to 1,000 miles.

"If you want to improve air quality on land, you will have a larger effect from spending one euro at sea than you will have spending one euro on land," said Pieter Hammingh, from the Dutch environment agency.

News
people And here is why...
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
Voices
voicesBy the man who has
Sport
Arsene Wenger tried to sign Eden Hazard
footballAfter 18 years with Arsenal, here are 18 things he has still never done as the Gunners' manager
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson star in The Twilight Saga but will not be starring in the new Facebook mini-movies
tvKristen Stewart and Stephenie Meyer will choose female directrs
Arts and Entertainment
Hilary North's 'How My Life Has Changed', 2001
books(and not a Buzzfeed article in sight)
News
William Hague
people... when he called Hague the county's greatest
News
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedyFirst national survey reveals Britain’s comedic tastes
Arts and Entertainment
Twerking girls: Miley Cyrus's video for 'Wrecking Ball'
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Sheeran performs at his Amazon Front Row event on Tuesday 30 September
musicHe spotted PM at private gig
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SEN (SLD/PMLD) Teacher

£120 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you a quailed Teacher ...

General Cover Teacher

£120 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Luton: Currently looking for teachers ...

SEN Teaching Assistant Runcorn

£50 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: SEN Teaching Assistant EBD , Septemb...

QA/BA - Agile

£400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client are currently seekin...

Day In a Page

Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?