The Hidden Face of Maritime Transport

published Aug 03, 2015
1 min read

maritime transportWe often dream about cruising on a beautiful yacht but what we tend to forget is the cost it inflicts on the environment.

A Dangerous Transport Method

Indeed, we often tend to think that cars pollute way more than boats do, or at least we do not think about boat as a polluting way of transportation. The reason for this consists in the fact that we perceive boats to represent a leisure experience and a holiday break rather than a way of transportation. Thus, we tend to forget all the cargos that cross our oceans every day.

Of course, we have all heard about the natural disasters caused by oil spills, such as the Erika sinking close to the French coast of Brittany in 1999 or the Prestige sinking close to the Spanish coast of Galicia in 2002. Those shipwrecks resulted in terrifying consequences for the surrounding ecosystems: decreasing water quality, fishes and birds deaths or injuries, coastline degradation etc. Those disasters take years to be overcome, yet their consequences may stay visible for a long period.

Impacts of Maritime Transport

According to a recent study conducted by the Rostock university and research center, serious illnesses such as pulmonary and cardiovascular dysfunctions are caused due to cargo oil emissions. The study expresses its concerns regarding the premature death of 60,000 European citizens every year .

The regions that are most affected by the mentioned diseases are the coastal ones. Indeed, half of the air pollution is due to boat emissions in the harbour and coastline regions. And those figures are not evolving in a positive direction. Therefore, the inhabitants of these specific regions are subjects to a superior rate of asthma compared to inland population.

maritime transport 2What are the Actions Implemented to Counter this Phenomenon?

Whereas some measures have been taken to reduce cars and trucks emissions of polluting particles, maritime fuel pollution that is actually way more toxic does not benefit from the same restrictions. Therefore, maritime companies are gaining a competitive advantage over the land transportation companies that have to pay high taxes.

To illustrate this, the study highlights the fact that maritime fuel contains 3,000 more sulfur than conventional cars and trucks fuel. However, some regions (such as English Channel, North and Baltic Seas) benefit from an emissions limitation imposed on commercial boats where maritime operators are obliged to use fuel that contains less than 0.1% of sulfur. Nevertheless, the Mediterranean Sea does not enjoy the same pollution restrictions, and some boats can have fuel emissions of sulfur going up to 4%. Measures to limit those emissions won’t be applicable before 2025, according to the study.