Seawise Giant – later Happy Giant, Jahre Viking, Knock Nevis, Oppama, and finally Mont – was a ULCCsupertanker that was the longest ship ever built.
6th April 2018
A new report by Transparency International reinforces long-standing concerns that the shipping industry has undue influence over the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), which is meeting in London over the next two weeks to discuss climate change. CLAIRE JAMES reports
The shipping industry is about to make decisions that could have a profound impact on the global environment. The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) is meeting in London over the next two weeks and is set to draw up a strategy for cutting carbon pollution over the coming decades.
But battle lines are drawn between those keen to see an agreement in line with the Paris climate deal and those who would prefer to carry on with business as usual.
The scale of the shipping industry is vast. Around 90 percent of global trade – from clothes and food to building materials and fossil fuels – is carried by sea in a merchant fleet of around 50,000 vessels. The largest of these ships are some 400 metres long – to put this in context, the Eiffel tower is 300 metres tall.
Unsurprisingly, therefore, it has a significant carbon footprint. If the shipping industry were a country, it would be sixth in the list of carbon polluters, between Germany and Japan.
But because the Paris climate agreement is based on nationally determined contributions from member countries, as yet it has no specific obligations to cut shipping carbon. If these emissions continued to grow, it could be 17 percent – almost a fifth – of the world’s total emissions by 2050.
But shipping draws very little attention, with awareness low among both environmentalists and the general public. The exception is, of course, those who live in or near port cities.
The cheap staple fuel of ocean-going ships is the sludgy dregs of the refining process. When burned, it emits not just climate-damaging CO2, but sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter.
In the UK’s major port cities such as Southampton, Grimsby and Liverpool, air pollution from shipping is a significant cause of concern for the health of local populations.
As climate protesters gathered outside the IMO building at the beginning of the negotiations in London, they were joined by East London residents concerned that plans to build a cruise ship terminal in Greenwich would further add to the burden on London’s already toxic air.
In Europe alone, air pollution from shipping is estimated to lead to around 50,000 premature deaths every year, with the congested ports of China and elsewhere in Asia taking an even heavier toll.
If the world of shipping is hidden to most of us, what goes on in IMO negotiations is even more opaque. A report by Transparency International, published this week, reinforces long-standing concerns that the shipping industry has undue influence over this UN body.