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Reducing the risk of air pollution from shipping

Anna Maersk

Engine room of the MV Kapadokia 

Trucks and cars are responsible for the majority of our city air pollution. The pollution from these vehicles comes from:

  • Burning of petrol and diesel in engines
  • The wearing away of brake linings
  • The wearing away of tyres.

Ships contribute less to air pollution problems because:

  • They use much less fuel than it would take for road vehicles to transport the same load over the same distance
  • They don’t have brakes and tyres that wear away creating polluting small particles that float in the air
  • Ships usually don’t move through cities where air pollution is at its worst

Many ships use diesel fuel, particularly when entering and leaving port. Diesel fuel produces less air pollution than heavy bunker oil which has a higher sulphur content resulting in sulphur dioxide emissions. New rules requiring ships to only use low sulphur fuel oil are effective from 21 November 2006, along with several other measures to minimise air pollution from ships.

Operational Measures for ships to reduce greenhouse gasses

  • Until international agreement is reached on additional regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by ships, the following voluntary measures have been suggested
    • ships reduce their speed by half a knot
    • ships use weather routing systems to avoid storms and strong head winds, which if encountered would increase their fuel oil consumption
    • the development of more fuel efficient ship engines and propellers
    • building larger ships that can carry more cargo thereby reducing the number of ships required to carry the world’s cargo

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