Shipping industry is pressured to cut pollution caused by merchant fleet : NPR

December 1, 20215:05 AM ET Heard on Morning Edition

Jackie Northam

The global shipping industry is coming under increasing pressure to cut the pollution created by the world’s merchant fleet. The effort to reduce ship emissions isn’t going well.

NOEL KING, HOST:

With supply chains in disarray, the shipping industry is a technicolor mess. Huge container ships are stuck at ports waiting to be unloaded. And as they idle, those ships are creating pollution. An effort to fix this problem is not going well. Here’s NPR’s Jackie Northam.

JACKIE NORTHAM, BYLINE: The shipping industry’s contribution to globalization has been huge. About 90% of the world’s trade is transported by sea. But the cost to the environment is enormous. Every year, those container ships plying the world’s waterways spew about 1 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide into the air, which is about three 3% of all greenhouse gas emissions. For many years, the emissions were just part of the cost of globalization.

SIMON BENNETT: Forgive the pun, but there’s been a total sea change in the last three or four years.

NORTHAM: Simon Bennett is with the International Chamber of Shipping, a global trade association representing about 80% of the world’s fleet. He says the shipping industry as a whole is committed to total decarbonization by 2050. Bennett says that’s created an urgency among shipowners to meet that deadline.

BENNETT: And ultimately, for individual shipping companies, the issue will become existential because if you don’t abide with the regulations, which are fairly strictly enforced globally, then, ultimately, your ship won’t be able to trade.

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