"It has been estimated that just one of these container ships, the length of around six football pitches, can produce the same amount of pollution as 50 million cars. The emissions from 15 of these mega-ships match those from all the cars in the world. And if the shipping industry were a country, it would be ranked between Germany and Japan as the sixth-largest contributor to global CO2 emissions.
Most of the pollution occurs far out at sea, out of the sight and minds of consumers – and out of the reach of any government. Now, an alliance of environmentalists, researchers and industry organisations, as well as ship owners and builders, fed up with the sluggishness of the industry’s response to its emissions problem, is attempting to do something about it."
"Cargo ships are mainly fueled by heavy oil. The low-grade bunker fuel is highly polluting, but it is used widely because of its high energy value."
“Bunker Fuel” Sounds Bad—It’s Worse Than It Sounds
"The reason that bunker fuel has gotten such a bad reputation is that the most common and cheapest is #6 fuel oil or residual fuel oil (RFO) that is the dregs left over at the end of the refinery process and is only slightly more refined than the “carbon black and bituminous residue used to produce asphalt for paving roads.”
"Bunker oil is residual fuel oil of high viscosity commonly used in marine and stationary steam power plants. It requires preheating to 220 - 260 °F (104 - 127 °C). In comparison with other petroleum products, bunker oil is extremely crude and highly polluting.
Bunker oil is less useful than other types of oil because it is so viscous that it must be heated with a special heating system before use and it contains relatively high amounts of pollutants, particularly sulfur, which forms sulfur dioxide upon combustion.
Heavier petroleum products like diesel and lubricating oil precipitate out more slowly, and bunker oil is literally the bottom of the barrel; the only thing denser than bunker fuel is the residue which is mixed with tar for paving roads and sealing roofs.
Although bunker oil is extremely cheap, many oil spills have involved bunker oils, leading some environmental organizations to call for a ban on the substance. Because it is so dense, it is extremely difficult to clean up and it easily coats animals and shorelines."
How 16 ships create as much pollution as all the cars in the world
"As ships get bigger, the pollution is getting worse. The most staggering statistic of all is that just 16 of the world’s largest ships can produce as much lung-clogging sulphur pollution as all the world’s cars.
Because of their colossal engines, each as heavy as a small ship, these super-vessels use as much fuel as small power stations.
But, unlike power stations or cars, they can burn the cheapest, filthiest, high-sulphur fuel: the thick residues left behind in refineries after the lighter liquids have been taken. The stuff nobody on land is allowed to use.
The shipping industry is responsible for a significant proportion of the global climate change problem. More than three percent of global carbon dioxide emissions can be attributed to ocean-going ships. This is an amount comparable to major carbon-emitting countries -- and the industry continues to grow rapidly.
In fact, if global shipping were a country, it would be the sixth largest producer of greenhouse gas emissions. Only the United States, China, Russia, India and Japan emit more carbon dioxide than the world’s shipping fleet. Nevertheless, carbon dioxide emissions from ocean-going vessels are currently unregulated."
The Renewable Solution To One Of The World's Dirtiest Industries
"The shipping industry has been amazingly open to changing their standard operating procedure when it comes to carbon emissions and dirty fuel, so much so that “Maersk, the largest shipping company in the world, has already promised to go zero carbon by 2050.”
While zero carbon may sound like a far-fetched and lofty goal, it’s not just PR and so much hot air--the shipping industry has a plan.
The answer to green shipping, according to industry leaders, is not with any cutting edge futuristic technological breakthroughs, but with a technology that we have had for decades--hydrogen fuel cells."
While part of the shipping industry is working to clean up their act, the real culprits - ships that fly under FOCs - are merrily going about their lawless ways on the high seas.
"In practice, this means that ships are registered in third countries, allowing ship owners to circumvent more stringent regulations in their home countries as the ship’s nationality “determines which domestic and international laws they are subject to, and what taxes their owners must pay.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, Panama is one of the most sought out destinations for ship registrations, followed by Liberia and the Marshall Islands. Together, these “registration havens” account for more than 60 percent of shippers, up from a measly 4 percent in the 1950s.
Despite the fact that such countries rake in billions of dollars of profit from their registries, many are often unwilling or unable to provide safety oversight, observe, and enforce working conditions on ships, or even investigate accidents. An exacerbating factor is that ship safety certificates are often provided by private classification societies, many with low standards and demands, thereby increasing the risk of accidents at sea. In a statement commenting on Panama’s business of granting flags of convenience, the International Transport Workers’ Federation lamented, “Registering a ship under a FOC, where a vessel is owned in one country and flagged in another, is also a system of tax avoidance . . . And who pays the price? Seafarers, who are subject to poor conditions and lower wages, because they’re at the mercy of a system that allows for minimal regulation and the acquisition of cheap labour.”
Yet flags of convenience are not merely about disregarding labor laws or tax evasion. They also fit into a wider global pattern of using deception to engage in illicit activities or skirt international law. Mongolia, for instance, has a thriving merchant navy, despite being a landlocked country 800 miles away from the nearest shore. Over the years, Mongolia’s fleet has acquired an infamous and unsavory reputation. Ships flying Mongolia’s flag have been involved in a series of life-threatening and fatal incidents, such as in 2003, when the Russian-manned Fest sunk off the Japanese coast, or when two North Korean sailors sank along with their ship in 2014. While Mongolian officials stated they would cancel the flag registrations of five Iranian cargo ships thought to be used to circumvent sanctions, reflagging is still easily accomplished and remains a serious problem for fighting illicit activities of internationally-chastised regimes such as North Korea.
Flags of convenience are also directly tied to illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing. As a 2005 report by the Australian government and the World Wildlife Fund laid out, many illegal fishing vessels “deliberately register with FOC countries to evade conservation and management regulations for high seas fisheries.” However, while the international community is still struggling to rein in illegal fishing on the high seas—experts estimate the annual figure to be at least 11 million tons of fish—on June 5 a new international agreement entered into force. The Port State Measures Agreement seeks “to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing through the implementation of robust port State measures.” It furthermore “enhances flag States control over vessels as the Agreement requires the flag State to take certain actions, at the request of the port State, or when vessels flying their flag are determined to have been involved in IUU fishing.” This is a major step forward in combating the role that flags of convenience play in IUU, as foreign-flagged ships must now undergo document and cargo checks before harboring at a port.
Beyond threatening fish stocks and the environment, the damage caused by substandard safety measures and illegal fishing have a real human cost. A most prominent example is the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that spilled nearly 5 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. The rig was registered to the Marshall Islands under a flag of convenience, making Marshall Islands shipping registry officials responsible for complying with quality standards regarding construction, equipment, and operations.
Furthermore, West Africa loses $1.3 billion a year to IUU fishing, but these coastal nations could earn an estimated $3.3 billion by fishing their own waters instead of selling fishing rights to foreign fleets. Mozambique’s economy was losing $35 million a year to IUU fishing, prompting the country to invest millions in state-backed loans and buy 20 much-needed coast guard vessels in the hopes of alleviating the economic burden and protect its population—much of it dependent on fish for proteins—from starvation. The nuisance of illegal fishing has almost bankrupted Mozambique, whose Mozambique Asset Management, which contracted the loan, is trying to persuade international creditors that it had no choice but to buy the vessels.
Flags of convenience provide ample opportunity for exploiting subpar labor, tax, and environmental laws to the detriment of people and the environment around the planet. The Port State Measures Agreement is an important step toward undercutting illicit activities resulting from flags of convenience, as it subjects suspicious ships to extended scrutiny. However, that is not enough. Just like tax havens, flags of convenience will represent an attractive alternative for as long as secrecy, disdain for national regulations, and the disconnect between the country of ownership and the country of registration are allowed by national governments. It is high time policymakers recognize the dangers flags of convenience represent to the world economy and take concerted action to delegitimize the practice."