While the maritime industry carries over 90% of the world’s trade each year and remains the most cost-effective way to move large quantities of goods long distances, the industry is responsible for a significant portion of the world’s pollution. The main types of oil used by ships is high-sulphur fuel oil which contains high levels of the element sulphur. When a ship’s engines burn sulphur containing fuel emissions containing particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, and sulphur oxides (SOx) are emitted into the atmosphere. The thousands of ships that travel across the world’s oceans burn nearly 2 billion barrels of high-sulphur fuel oil each year, releasing thousands of tons of pollution, primarily in the form of SOx, into the atmosphere. It is currently estimated that the shipping industry alone accounts for between 2 and 3 percent of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions, a major contributing factor in the global climate change crisis.
The emissions of SOx created by ship’s engines are commonly known to be harmful to both the environment and human health. In addition to creating acid rain, which damages crops and forests far inland from the ships are creating these harmful emissions, SOx contributes to the destruction of aquatic animals and the acidification of oceans, causing considerable damage to the marine environment.
“It is estimated that 400,000 premature deaths each year are caused by emission from ships. These emissions further account for 14 million cases of asthma per year.”
In addition to causing damage to the natural environment, SOx emitted by ships is known to be harmful to human health. According to a report from Nature, it is estimated that 400,000 premature deaths each year are caused by emissions from ships. These emissions further account for 14 million cases of asthma per year.
“The reason the health impact of these fuels is not a front-page scandal is simply that those impacted tend to be people living along developing country coastlines and ports in Asia, rather than people in western capitals,”
says one shipping consultant.
The EPA’s goal is to ensure that the entire shipping industry lives up to the spirit of the new sulphur regulations and is working to prevent companies from cheating these regulations by simply dumping their pollution into the world’s oceans rather than the atmosphere.