Marine

Marine

Ships carry more than 80% of global trade by volume and more than 70% by value, and relatively speaking they are the most fuel-efficient means of transport. But ships are an increasing source of both climate pollution and other air pollutants. Most marine fuel has a sulfur content of 25,000 ppm; compare that to 10–15 ppm for on-road diesel and gasoline (petrol) in North America and Europe. High fuel sulfur content, combined with lax emission standards for marine engines, contributes significantly to local air pollution and related health issues. Fine particulate matter (PM2.5) from shipping has been linked to an estimated 60,000 premature deaths worldwide annually, with 24,000 in East Asia alone. And marine CO2 emissions could account for 17% of anthropogenic emissions in 2050 if left unchecked.

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About the program

Ships carry more than 80% of global trade by volume and more than 70% by value, and relatively speaking they are the most fuel-efficient means of transport. But ships are an increasing source of both climate pollution and other air pollutants. Most marine fuel has a sulfur content of 25,000 ppm; compare that to 10–15 ppm for on-road diesel and gasoline (petrol) in North America and Europe. High fuel sulfur content, combined with lax emission standards for marine engines, contributes significantly to local air pollution and related health issues. Fine particulate matter (PM2.5) from shipping has been linked to an estimated 60,000 premature deaths worldwide annually, with 24,000 in East Asia alone. And marine CO2 emissions could account for 17% of anthropogenic emissions in 2050 if left unchecked.

ICCT’s marine program works to further policies that address the air-quality and climate impacts of shipping at the international, regional, national, and local (port) levels. Since 2007 ICCT research has informed the International Maritime Organization’s Marine Environmental Protection Committee (MEPC) work on policies to reduce air pollution and greenhouse gases from international shipping that include development of Emission Control Areas (ECAs), Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) targets for new vessels, controls for black carbon emissions, and, most recently, IMO’s Comprehensive GHG Reduction Strategy. Our ongoing work on air pollution and heavy fuel oil (HFO) use in Arctic shipping is building a data-driven argument for policy progress at both IMO and the Arctic Council. And the custom emissions inventory tools ICCT researchers are developing from Satellite Automatic Information Systems (S-AIS) operations data are fundamentally strengthening the evidence base available to national and local policymakers committed to reducing air pollution in coastal areas, most notably in China.

Black carbon emissions (tonnes) in the Arctic, 2015.

Dwindling sea ice is opening shipping routes through the Arctic, along with oil and gas development. With increased shipping activity comes an increased risk of accidents, oil spills, and air pollution. Spills of heavy fuel oil and emissions of black carbon are of particular concern for the Arctic. Heavy fuel oil is extremely difficult to recover once spilled, and the combustion of HFO emits black carbon, a potent climate pollutant. (From Prevalence of heavy fuel oil and black carbon in Arctic shipping, 2015 to 2025)

Recent publications

The International Maritime Organization's initial greenhouse gas strategy

Provides an overview of this strategy, which represents the first global climate framework for shipping, and includes quantitative GHG reduction targets through 2050 as well as a list of candidate short-, mid-, and long-term policy measures to help achieve these targets.

2018.04.23 | Policy update
Black carbon emissions and fuel use in global shipping, 2015

An updated global inventory of black carbon emissions from the global shipping sector with several recommendations on how to reduce black carbon emissions from ships.

2017.12.15 | Report
Greenhouse gas emissions from global shipping, 2013–2015

Describes trends in global ship activity and emissions for the years 2013 to 2015 and finds that emissions generally increased over this period, with efficiency improvements more than offset by increases in activity.

2017.10.17 | Report
See all publications

Staff blog

ICAO, why can’t you be a bit more like your sister?

IMO and ICAO, the sister UN agencies governing international shipping and aviation, have both struck global deals on greenhouse gas emissions. But why, oh why ICAO, can’t you be more like your sister?

Why should we care about black carbon from ships, especially in the Arctic?

Staff

Program Director / Regional Lead