World’s 15 Biggest Ships Create More Pollution Than All The Cars In The World

By: | June 5th, 2013

Says James Corbett, professor of marine policy at the University of Delaware: “Ship pollution affects the health of communities in coastal and inland regions around the world, yet pollution from ships remains one of the least regulated parts of our global transportation system.” It sounds serious, but how bad could it be? Staggeringly, if a report by the UK’s Guardian newspaper is to be believed. According to their story, just one of the world’s largest container ships can emit about as much pollution as 50 million cars. Further, the 15 largest ships in the world emit as much nitrogen oxide and sulphur oxide as the world’s 760 million cars.

The problem isn’t necessarily with the ships’ 109,000-horsepower engines that endlessly spin away 24 hours a day, 280 days a year. In fact, these powerplants are some of the most fuel efficient units in the world. The real issue lies with the heavy fuel oil the ships run on and the almost complete lack of regulations applied to the giant exhaust stacks of these container ships.

The good news is that pressure is building from various governments around the world, including the United States, which just recently introduced legislation to keep these ships at least 230 miles away from U.S. coastlines. Similar measures are likely to follow in other countries like the United Kingdom. [via]

Jeremy Helms

Jeremy Helms is an engineering enthusiast. You can also find Jeremy on Google+.

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4 thoughts on “World’s 15 Biggest Ships Create More Pollution Than All The Cars In The World

  1. George Dixon
    June 11, 2013 at 10:38 am

    It’s looking a bit like catch 22. Here we are wondering about car pollution, (based on one car at a time) without concern about the ships that transport them around the world.
    Or maybe there is concern but no solution and we just have to live with it.
    (in a whisper voice “Don’t mention the boats” )

  2. Merrick Hawthorn
    June 11, 2013 at 10:48 pm

    Mind-numbing! I would like clarification on how the heavy fuel oil differs from the refined products from a harmful emission point of view, gram for gram. Does the cleaning of bilges part come into the equation? Smoke exhaust, when viewed from afar, appears to be minimal compared to poorly tuned diesel trucks and cars with worn rings. Do the flushing of loo’s come into it, and the chucking out of kitchen waste? Food for thought.

  3. RhAMMike
    June 12, 2013 at 4:11 am

    To Jeremy Helms. It may take a little more time but would be worth your while to investigate a little more deeply, the legislation and regulation governeing pollution control for ships. For starters go through the variios requirements of MARPOL in case you havent heard of the regulatory environment for pollution of all forms from overboard discharges of exhaust emmmissions, ballast water, oily water bilge water refuse and so on then have a look at some of the rgulationas in special sea areas which by and large like the US regional regulations come in to play in many areas of the world. I am sure you will find that regulation of the industry is extremely tight. Follow that through with a calculation of the volume of “cargo” carried on ships compared with that carried in all other forms of mechanised transport (in the order of 92%), and perhaps you can then present a less sensational and rather more ballance report.

  4. foodandart
    September 4, 2013 at 10:25 pm

    Not at all surprised by this. I live in a smaller port city with NO electrical service for the ships that come to port. Long story short, is that the ships must constantly idle their diesel engines to provide ship-board electricity. Not a problem most of the time, the winds take it all away, but on the rare occasion we have a thermal inversion bubble of air and no wind.. it can be like being downwind of a truck-stop. In the 20+ years I’ve lived here, we have had to close up the house, pack the cat into the carrier and get out of town for the afternoon five times, the air was so noxious from the exhaust.

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