Day 41 – Curbing Shipping Industry Pollution

While politicians continue to debate the legitimacy of Global Warming/Climate Change, along with self-interested multi-nationals arguing for little or no change in defense of their corporate coffers, people suffer and die. While much focus remains concentrated on lowering auto emissions and utilizing alternative forms energy, transferring the financing burden on domestic consumers, the egregious excesses of the shipping industry go largely ignored.

Transport and Environment reports that poor air quality due to international shipping accounts for approximately 400,000 premature deaths per year worldwide. Through chemical reactions in the air, the emitted SO2 and NOx are converted into fine particles, sulphate and nitrate aerosols. They get into the lungs and pass through tissues and enter the blood, triggering inflammations which eventually cause heart and lung failures. These tiny airborne particles are linked to premature deaths. Ship emissions may also contain carcinogenic particles.

It was reported over a decade ago that 16 ships create as much pollution as all the cars in the world. While it has long since been illegal to belch black, sulphur-laden smoke from power-station chimneys, the shipping industry has kept its license to pollute. Many ships burn marine heavy fuel, or ‘bunker fuel’, which leaves behind a trail of lethal chemicals: sulphur and smoke. The largest ships can each emit as much as 5,000 tons of sulphur in a year – the same as 50 million typical cars, which means 16 super-ships can emit as much sulphur as the world fleet of cars.

Although a revised sulphur standard for shipping fuels was adopted by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) in 2008 and scheduled to be implemented in 2020, compliance and efficacy has yet to be determined. Monitoring, compliance and enforcement of the new limit falls to Governments and national authorities of Member States that are Parties to MARPOL Annex VI.

National Whistleblowers Center is a crucial component for detecting and preventing illegal pollution in our oceans. The whistleblower protection and reward provision through APPS (Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships) prosecutions has obtained over $270 million in sanctions from polluters and recovered a total of $177 million based on whistleblower testimony. Additionally, courts have ordered over $63 million be used for beneficial purposes in fighting ocean pollution. Donate here.