Monday, September 30, 2019

A cheating, polluting industry

Back in 2016, the International Maritime Organisation reached an agreement to reduce air pollution from shipping, specifically sulphur dioxide pollution which causes acid rain and lung disease. The agreement comes into force on January 1 2020. So has the shipping industry actually reduced pollution? Of course not. Instead, they've cheated:

Global shipping companies have spent millions rigging vessels with “cheat devices” that circumvent new environmental legislation by dumping pollution into the sea instead of the air, The Independent can reveal.

More than £9.7m [sic] has been spent on the devices, known as open-loop scrubbers, which extract sulphur from the exhaust fumes of ships that run on heavy fuel oil.


However, the sulphur emitted by the ships is simply re-routed from the exhaust and expelled into the water around the ships, which not only greatly increases the volume of pollutants being pumped into the sea, but also increases carbon dioxide emissions.

The change could have a devastating effect on wildlife in British waters and around the world, experts have warned.

As the article notes, the shipping industry has spent almost £10 billion on these devices (yes, they say "m" above; they're clear it is billion further down). Imagine what that amount of money could have done to research and fast-track low-emissions shipping technologies. Instead, its been spent to dump pollution elsewhere and making their ships less efficient, all to achieve technical compliance rather than actually cleaning their act up.

There's a solution for this, of course: countries can ban the use of such devices in their waters (and ban their fitting on ships carrying their flag). And since the IMO has clearly failed, that is what is going to have to happen. Hopefully New Zealand will be acting on this soon.