Sunday, 12 April 2009

Shipping - a major polluter

According to The Guardian newspaper in the UK last Friday, confidential data from maritime industry insiders shows that one giant container ship can emit almost the same amount of cancer and asthma-causing chemicals as 50m cars. Based on engine size and the quality of fuel typically used by ships and cars, just 15 of the world's biggest ships may now emit as much pollution as all the world's 760m cars. Low-grade ship bunker fuel (or fuel oil) has up to 2,000 times the sulphur content of diesel fuel used in US and European automobiles.

Last week the US government decided to impose a 230-mile buffer zone along the entire US coast after academic research showed that pollution from the world's 90,000 cargo ships leads to 60,000 deaths a year in the US alone and costs up to $330bn per year in health costs from lung and heart diseases. The buffer zone could be in place next year and Canada is expected to follow suit. As a consequence, the paper says that pressure is mounting on the UN's International Maritime Organisation and the EU to tighten laws governing ship emissions.

So just when you thought that shipping was one of the most environmentally friendly transport methods, so the landscape may be changing again. (I've even seen case studies which featured moves from road to sea to minimise emissions - was it actually better?).

Anyway, the point is that as yet there are almost no absolutes in emissions calculations. To be truly useful any green logistics solution on the market needs to be flexible and adaptable, with nothing set in stone. Online solutions, or those that have access to an online database of emissions sources, fuel conversion factors and pollution levels, have the advantage of relying on the provider to make changes as and when required, which seems like the best option for most users.

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