Cleaner shipping: air pollution, climate, technical solutions and regulations


The Danish Center for Environment and Energy (DCE) at Aarhus University has estimated that air pollution from shipping causes around 50,000 premature deaths in Europe each year. However, the new global sulfur cap from 2020 has reduced mortality and morbidity from air pollution from shipping by around 20%, clearly illustrating that regulation can be an effective solution. However, air pollution from shipping still causes around 40,000 premature deaths in Europe each year and associated health costs of over $ 65 billion. Added to this is the damage caused to the climate, nature, crops, buildings, etc. Emissions of NOx, PM2.5, CO₂, carbon black and other key pollutants from shipping – and associated adverse effects – are expected to increase with growth in shipping. Further regulation of pollution from shipping and new carbon-free fuels are urgently needed.

As an example, the seas around Denmark have more than 60,000 ship passages of large commercial vessels each year. Large container ships only sail 5 to 10 meters per liter of fuel. As a result, huge amounts of fuel are burned in the seas around Denmark, causing severe air pollution. DCE estimated in 2019 that air pollution from international shipping caused around 650 premature deaths in Denmark each year, and healthcare costs were around $ 1.7 billion. The 2020 global sulfur cap did not significantly reduce these negative effects as Denmark is geographically within an SECA which already has stricter regulations. If no further action is taken to further reduce air pollution from shipping, shipping air pollution in the seas around Denmark will cause almost the same number of negative health effects in Denmark in 2030 than all domestic pollution sources which are regulated much more strictly.

This publication focuses on air pollution by CO₂, SO₂, NOx and particulates from maritime transport, technical solutions as well as existing and future regulation and enforcement. The aim is to inform and inspire decision-makers and other stakeholders to implement ambitious regulations to reduce air pollution from maritime transport for the benefit of the climate, public health and nature.
Finally, this publication can be used for teaching.

Shipping causes other serious environmental problems, for example pollution by invasive species, underwater noise, oil pollution, etc. These are widely described elsewhere and therefore are not included.

Table 1 shows that the average healthcare costs per kilogram of pollutants emitted are higher inside the SECA than outside the SECA, because emissions inside the SECA are on average more concentrated. near densely populated areas. The total health costs of the three main air pollutants emitted when ships burn one tonne of fuel oil are around $ 1,300 outside of SECA and around $ 3,000 inside SECA, although the The distillate fuel used inside the SECA contains five times less sulfur. In comparison, the price of VLSFO was around $ 560 per tonne, while distilled fuel used in SECA costs around $ 640 per tonne (September 2021). If the costs of the negative health effects caused by air pollution were passed on to shipowners in terms of increasing fuel prices, the price of fuel would increase more than three times outside of SECA and more than five times inside. of SECA. This would immediately encourage shipowners to switch to distillate worldwide and install efficient flue gas purification.
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Source: Danish Center for Environment and Energy (DCE) at Aarhus University


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