Shipping Must Act on Air Emissions
Author: Michael Holden
"Unless response happens, it's only a matter of time until
that will be the case," Don Gregory, director of environment and
sustainability at BP Marine, part of the oil giant BP Plc, told
So far, shipping has avoided the same high-profile attention
as the aviation sector, which accounts for about two percent of
world emissions of climate warming carbon dioxide, but industry
leaders say it is fast coming under the mainstream microscope.
"It is already facing that sort of pressure," said Bill Box,
of the International Association of Independent Tanker Owners,
one of the world's biggest tanker industry groups.
"A lot of transport industries have been working on air
pollution and the shipping industry may be slightly behind on
that but it's certainly catching up now."
No accurate figure of shipping's contribution to CO2
emissions exists but industry experts estimate it is slightly
less than that caused by air travel.
The United Nations' International Maritime Organisation
(IMO) in July launched a comprehensive study to assess its
impact and hopes to reach a definitive conclusion by the end of
"As land based sources are targeted intensely in many areas
of the world and shipping activities are growing together with
the global economy, the contribution of ship emissions to air
quality problems is growing percentage wise and is becoming more
conspicuous," an IMO spokeswoman said.
"Shipping is now being targeted vigorously by local and
regional regulators in parts of the world to help solve local
air quality problems."
Moreover, the trillion-dollar industry, which carries around
90 percent of world trade by volume on about 50,000 merchant
ships, also accounts for about 10 percent of global sulphur
dioxide emissions, a cause of acid rain, as well as large
amounts of toxic nitrous oxide and particulate emissions.
The International Council on Clean Transportation, made up
of transport and air quality officials from around the world,
estimates that by 2020 shipping will produce more sulphur and
nitrogen oxides than all land-based sources in the EU combined.
In an indication of what might come, environmental campaign
group Friends of the Earth said last week it was suing the US
Environmental Protection Agency for failing to meet a deadline
to regulate air pollution from large ships.
The group said emissions from global shipping were projected
to double in North America in the next decade, exposing
communities to fumes that contributed to respiratory illness,
cancer, heart disease, and premature death.
"In Los Angeles alone, the ships in port spew more pollution
than the metro area's six million cars combined," said Sarah
Burt of Earthjustice.
Industry groups argue that shipping is at least two or three
times cleaner than road or rail transport and around 20 times
more environmentally efficient than air transport, and should be
seen as part of the solution rather than part of the problem.
But there is an acceptance that the issue must be tackled.
"Addressing carbon emissions is indeed a major challenge,
especially as maritime trade is expected to continue expanding,"
the International Chamber of Shipping said in its 2007 annual
BP's Gregory said it was essential that the shipping
industry came up with its own regulations before prescriptive
measures were imposed by regulators or other stakeholders.
"This is almost an exponential curve of attention, of
regulation and of response," he said.
"What we need to do is calm that curve by responding more
rapidly, and thereby alleviating some of the concerns that
various stakeholders are raising with the shipping industry.
WHAT TO DO?
What action the industry should take is less clear.
"Everyone accepts that something needs to be done, it's