30 Jul 2019 - NPR - There are signs that the status quo is changing and a new fuel could make cargo ships among the cleanest transport methods on Earth.
The global shipping industry is enormous — thousands of ships carry billions of dollars of goods each year across nearly every ocean on the planet.
Those ships run mostly on a particularly dirty type of fuel known as heavy fuel oil, or bunker fuel. It's thick and sooty, and when it burns, it emits sulfur and particulate matter that can cause respiratory illness. It also emits greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide and methane, which trap heat in the atmosphere and cause global warming.
"If shipping was a country, it would be the sixth-largest polluter in the world," says Nerijus Poskus of the shipping technology company Flexport. "About 3% of global emissions are released by ocean freight shipping."
The industry is growing so steadily, he says, that it's projected to produce more than 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions by midcentury if ships continue to burn the same fuel, which is a real possibility considering that most cargo ships are designed to last at least 30 years.
Yet there are signs that the status quo is changing and that a new fuel could make cargo ships among the cleanest transportation methods on Earth.
"Things are changing, and they are changing quite fast, finally," Poskus says.
The international body that helps create global shipping regulations has clamped down on emissions of some air-polluting substances when ships are in or near ports. The new regulations, which started going into effect in 2012 and which decrease limits dramatically in January 2020, require ships to significantly cut the amount of sulfur pollution they emit when they're near land. For the U.S., the regulations apply anywhere within 200 miles of its coastline.
The easiest way to comply with the new regulations is to burn a different, less pollution-intensive type of diesel fuel.
CONTINUE READING ONLINE HERE: http://www.imo.org/en/mediacentre/hottopics/pages/sulphur-2020.aspx