Rarely do I read an article that makes my blood boil. But this article by the Mail Online has done just that. While a number of us are pushing for hydrogen cars or at least cleaner standards for all cars there are gross polluting ships at sea that are spewing out more sulfur into the air than all of the world’s cars combined.
Now, I’m not talking about replacing standard boats with hydrogen boats like I’ve talked about in the past. I’m talking about supertankers and other large vessels such as container ships, cruise liners, oil tankers and tugboats. These ships burn unrefined high sulfur “bunker oil” which is basically the cheapest sludge left over from the refineries instead of low sulfur, clean diesel fuel.
According to the Mail Online, “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 … Bunker fuel is also thick with sulphur. IMO rules allow ships to burn fuel containing up to 4.5 per cent sulphur. That is 4,500 times more than is allowed in car fuel in the European Union. The sulphur comes out of ship funnels as tiny particles, and it is these that get deep into lungs.
“Thanks to the IMO’s rules, the largest ships can each emit as much as 5,000 tons of sulphur in a year – the same as 50 million typical cars, each emitting an average of 100 grams of sulphur a year.”
The sad irony of some of this is that the same supertankers that are delivering crude oil to refineries to create clean diesel fuel are themselves burning unrefined oil or the equivalent of tar or asphalt and belching it into the air. While converting these mammoth vessels to hydrogen powered ships may not be practical right now, this should at least be a goal that we are working on.
The first practical step is to convert these polluting beasts to clean diesel fuel. The next step is transitioning these gross polluters to hydrogen ships. It is unbelievable in this day and age that cars and power plants are more highly regulated and cleaner than the largest polluters on Earth, which are these large super vessels spewing all sorts of toxins as they travel our oceans, harbors and other waterways.
The next time you think about traveling upon a cruise ship for a little vacation think about what you’ll be breathing as you’re sipping your Pina Colada. Chances are that you may do a little belching and spewing of your own.