Just 15 ships emit as much pollution as all the world's cars put together

A committee of MPs in Westminster has concluded that the shipping industry should do more to reduce its carbon footprint, as countries around the world count the health costs of using low-grade marine fuel.

The committee branded the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) ‘not fit for purpose’ for failing to implement technology that could reduce harmful emissions.

Shipping is responsible for 18-30% of all the world’s nitrogen oxide (NOx) pollution and 9% of the global sulphur oxide (SOx) pollution, according to a recent news story in the Guardian newspaper. The low-grade bunker fuel means that one large ship can generate about 5,000 tonnes of sulphur oxide (SOx) pollution in a year – compared to the 101g emitted by a car being driven 15,000km in a year.

Red diesel, as used by many boat owners in the UK is also high in particulate pollution and attracts a higher rate of duty compared to cleaner Ultra-low sulphur diesel used on the roads.

A recent news report highlighted research that showed the extent of shipping industry’s impact on atmospheric pollution, including:

· Shipping is responsible for 3.5% to 4% of all climate change emissions
· one giant container ship can emit almost the same amount of airborne pollution as 50m cars
· 15 of the world’s biggest ships may now emit as much pollution as all the world’s 760m cars
· Low grade bunker fuel has up to 2,000 times the sulphur content of EU diesel for cars.

The US government plans to impose a 230-mile low-emission shipping zone along its entire coast in 2010 after research indicated that the world’s 90,000 cargo ships contributed to 60,000 deaths a year in the US alone and cost more than $300bn dollars in health coasts.

No similar research has been carried out in the UK, but a Danish study estimated that shipping emissions in the North Sea and the Baltic could be responsible for the premature deaths of up to 1,000 of its citizens annually.

The UK Chamber of Shipping responded angrily to criticism, citing the industry’s contribution to the UK and global economy and upcoming changes to the IMO pollution regulations.

UK Chamber of Shipping response