- Environmental impact of shipping
The environmental impact of shipping includes greenhouse gas emissions and oil pollution. Carbon dioxide emissions from shipping is currently estimated at 4 to 5 percent of the global total, and estimated by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to rise by up to 72 percent by 2020 if no action is taken.
The First Intersessional Meeting of the IMO Working Group on Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Ships took place in Oslo, Norway on 23–27 June 2008. It was tasked with developing the technical basis for the reduction mechanisms that may form part of a future IMO regime to control greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping, and a draft of the actual reduction mechanisms themselves, for further consideration by IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC).
Ballast water discharged by ships can have a negative impact on the marine environment. Cruise ships, large tankers, and bulk cargo carriers use a huge amount of ballast water, which is often taken on in the coastal waters in one region after ships discharge wastewater or unload cargo, and discharged at the next port of call, wherever more cargo is loaded. Ballast water discharge typically contains a variety of biological materials, including plants, animals, viruses, and bacteria. These materials often include non-native, nuisance, exotic species that can cause extensive ecological and economic damage to aquatic ecosystems.
When a larger vessel, such as a container ship or an oil tanker unloads cargo, seawater is pumped into compartments in the hull. Similarly, when a larger vessel is being loaded it discharges seawater from these compartments. The sea water is meant to help stabilize and balance a ship. Ballast discharges from ships are responsible for tar balls in the open oceans and seas, and can cause problems navigating tanker routes. Nevertheless, the discharge of ballast water only accounts for a small percentage of oil pollution in the marine environment.
Ships are also responsible for transporting harmful organisms in their ballast water. Meinesz believes that one of the worst cases of a single invasive species causing harm to an ecosystem can be attributed to a seemingly harmless jellyfish. Mnemiopsis leidyi, a species of comb jellyfish that inhabits estuaries from the United States to the Valdés peninsula in Argentina along the Atlantic coast, has caused notable damage in the Black Sea. It was first introduced in 1982, and thought to have been transported to the Black Sea in a ship’s ballast water. The population of the jellyfish shot up exponentially and, by 1988, it was wreaking havoc upon the local fishing industry. “The anchovy catch fell from 204,000 tons in 1984 to 200 tons in 1993; sprat from 24,600 tons in 1984 to 12,000 tons in 1993; horse mackerel from 4,000 tons in 1984 to zero in 1993.” Now that the jellyfish have exhausted the zooplankton, including fish larvae, their numbers have fallen dramatically, yet they continue to maintain a stranglehold on the ecosystem. Recently the jellyfish have been discovered in the Caspian Sea. Invasive species can take over once occupied areas, facilitate the spread of new diseases, introduce new genetic material, alter landscapes and jeopardize the ability of native species to obtain food. “On land and in the sea, invasive species are responsible for about 137 billion dollars in lost revenue and management costs in the U.S. each year.” This is very significant damage that cannot be ignored.
In addition to introducing non native species into new environments, ballast and bilge discharge from ships can spread human pathogens and other harmful diseases and toxins potentially causing health issues for humans and marine life alike. Discharges into coastal waters along with other sources of marine pollution have the potential to be toxic to marine plants, animals, and microorganisms causing alterations such as changes in growth, disruption of hormone cycles, birth defects, suppression of the immune system, and disorders resulting in cancer, tumors, and genetic abnormalities or even death. They may also have the opposite effect upon some marine life stimulating growth and providing a source of food. Sources of seafood can become contaminated and unhealthy for consumption. Not surprisingly, cholera outbreaks have been attributed to ship operations. “Current research indicates that the bacterium responsible for causing cholera, Vibrio cholerae can spread through attachment to marine organisms in ship ballast water.” Shellfish and drinking water can then be contaminated when the ship discharges its ballast water.
There are hundreds of organisms carried in ballast water that cause problematic ecological effects outside of their natural range. The International Maritime Organization list the ten most unwanted species as:
- Cholera Vibrio cholerae (various strains)
- Cladoceran Water Flea Cercopagis pengoi
- Mitten Crab Eriocheir sinensis
- Toxic algae (red/brown/green tides) (various species)
- Round Goby Neogobius melanostomus
- North American Comb Jelly Mnemiopsis leidyi
- North Pacific Seastar Asterias amurensis
- Zebra Mussel Dreissena polymorpha
- Asian Kelp Undaria pinnatifida
- European Green Crab Carcinus maenas
The ballast tanks in New Zealand carry animals and plants that kill ecosystems. Ballast tanks are only used in cargo ships there. Ballast water is controlled under the Biosecurity Act 1993 in New Zealand.
Mediterranean countries have voluntarily implemented Ballast Water Management procedures for vessels entring or trading within MED as from 1st January 2012 according with IMO BWM.2/Circ.35. This is to prevent alien spices contaminating Mediterranean waters.
Ballast water discharges are believed to be the leading source of invasive species in US marine waters, thus posing public health and environmental risks, as well as significant economic cost to industries such as water and power utilities, commercial and recreational fisheries, agriculture, and tourism. Studies suggest that the economic cost just from introduction of pest mollusks (zebra mussels, the Asian clam, and others) to US aquatic ecosystems is more than $6 billion per year. These problems are not limited to cruise ships, but there is little cruise-industry specific data on the issue, and further study is needed to determine cruise ships’ role in the overall problem of introduction of non-native species by vessels.
The zebra mussel, native to the Caspian and Black Seas arrived in Lake St. Clair in the ballast water of a transatlantic freighter in 1988 and within 10 years spread to all of the five neighbouring Great Lakes. The economic cost of this introduction has been estimated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) at about $5 billion.
Congress enacted the National Invasive Species Act of 1996 (NISA) to control aquatic nuisance species. It amended the Non-indigenous Aquatic Nuisance Prevention and Control Act of 1990, and authorizes regulation of ballast water; funding for prevention and control research; regional involvement with the Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force; and education and technical assistance programs to promote compliance with the new regulations. NISA also includes specific actions for certain geographical locations, such as the Great Lakes, Chesapeake Bay, the Gulf of Mexico, and San Francisco Bay.
US Clean Water Act (CWA) regulations currently exempt ballast water discharges incidental to the normal operation of cruise ships and other vessels from NPDES discharge permit requirements (see above discussions concerning sewage and graywater). Because of the growing problem of introduction of invasive species into US waters via ballast water, in January 1999, a number of conservation organizations, fishing groups, native American tribes, and water agencies petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to repeal its 1973 regulation exempting ballast water discharge, arguing that ballast water should be regulated as the “discharge of a pollutant” under the NPDES program. EPA rejected the petition in September 2003, saying that the “normal operation” exclusion is long-standing agency policy, to which Congress has acquiesced twice (in 1979 and 1996) when it considered the issue of aquatic nuisance species in ballast water and did not alter the EPA’s CWA interpretation. Further, EPA said that other ongoing federal activities related to control of invasive species in ballast water are likely to be more effective than changing the NPDES rules. Until recently, these efforts to limit ballast water discharges by cruise ships and other vessels were primarily voluntary, except in the Great Lakes. Since 2004, all vessels equipped with ballast water tanks must have a ballast water management plan.
After the denial of their administrative petition, the environmental groups filed a lawsuit seeking to force EPA to rescind the regulation that exempts ballast water discharges from CWA permitting. In March 2005, a federal district court ruled in favor of the groups, and in September 2006, the court remanded the matter to EPA with an order that the challenged regulation be set aside by September 30, 2008. The court rejected EPA’s contention that Congress had previously acquiesced in exempting the “normal operation” of vessels from CWA permitting and disagreed with EPA’s argument that the court’s two-year deadline creates practical difficulties for the agency and the affected industry. Significantly, while the focus of the environmental groups’ challenge was principally to EPA’s permitting exemption for ballast water discharges, the court’s ruling — and its mandate to EPA to rescind the exemption in 40 C.F.R. 122.3a — applies fully to other types of vessel discharges that are covered by the regulatory exemption, including graywater and bilge water.
The government has appealed the district court’s ruling, and the parties are waiting for a ruling from the appeals court. However, in June 2007, EPA also initiated steps seeking public comment on regulating ballast water discharges from ships, an information-gathering prelude to a potential rulemaking in response to the district court’s order.
The 110th Congress had considered ballast water discharge issues, specifically legislation to provide a uniform national approach for addressing aquatic nuisance species from ballast water under a program administered by the Coast Guard. Some groups opposed the bills because they would have preempted states from enacting ballast water management programs more stringent than Coast Guard requirements, while the CWA does allow states to adopt requirements more stringent than in federal rules. Also, while the CWA permits citizen suits to enforce the law, the proposed legislation included no citizen suit provisions.
The US government has set up voluntary guidelines for vessels operating within US waters. These guidelines are for implementing the provisions of NISA. The guidelines are as follows:
- Avoid ballast operations in or near marine sanctuaries, marine preserves, marine parks, or coral reefs.
- Avoid taking on ballast water:
- with harmful organisms and pathogens, such as toxic algal blooms.
- near sewage outfalls.
- near dredging operations.
- where tidal flushing is poor or when a tidal stream is known to be more turbid.
- in darkness when organisms may rise up in the water column.
- in shallow water or where propellers may stir up the sediment.
- Clean ballast tanks regularly.
- Discharge minimal amounts of ballast water in coastal and internal waters.
- Rinse anchors during retrieval to remove organisms and sediments at their place of origin.
- Remove fouling organisms from hull, piping, and tanks on a regular basis and dispose of any removed substances in accordance with local, state, and federal regulations.
- Maintain a vessel-specific ballast water management plan.
- Train vessel personnel in ballast water management and treatment procedures.
States can impose stricter guidelines and it is unlawful to ballast within national marine monuments.
There are additional guidelines, mandatory log keeping, and mandatory reporting for any vessel that plans to enter US waters after being outside the Exclusive Economic Zone. The log keeping and reporting information is as follows:
- Ballast water management plan (Each ship must have one)
- Copy of IMO guidelines.
- Vessel’s name, type, IMO number, flag, owner, gross tonnage, call sign, and agent.
- Last port, next port, arrival port, and date.
- Total volume of ballast water capacity.
- Total volume of ballast water on board.
- Total number of tanks in ballast.
- Total number of tanks on board that are used for ballast, will be discharged, have undergone exchange, or have undergone alternative management.
- Location, date, volume, and temperature of ballast when each tank was loaded.
- Location, date, volume, and salinity of ballast water to be discharged for each tank.
- Particulars of exchange if conducted, including volume exchanged, location, date, percent of tank volume exchanged, and sea height at time of exchange.
- Description of alternative management method, if used.
- Reasons if no ballast treatment method was used.
To minimize the spread of invasive species in U.S. waterways, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Coast Guard are developing plans to regulate the concentration of living organisms discharged in the ballast water of ships. A June 2011 National Research Council study provided advice on the process of setting these limits. The study found that determining the exact number of organisms that could be expected to launch a new population is complex. It suggested an initial step of establishing a benchmark for the concentrations of organisms in ballast water below current levels, and then using models to analyze experimental and field-based data to help inform future decisions about ballast water discharge standards.
Noise pollution caused by shipping and other human enterprises has increased in recent history. The noise produced by ships can travel long distances, and marine species who may rely on sound for their orientation, communication, and feeding, can be harmed by this sound pollution
The Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species has identified ocean noise as a potential threat to marine life.
Marine mammals, such a whales and manatees, risk being struck by ships, causing injury and death. For example, if a ship is traveling at a speed of only 15 knots, there is a 79 percent chance of a collision being lethal to a whale.
One notable example of the impact of ship collisions is the endangered North Atlantic right whale, of which 400 or less remain. The greatest danger to the North Atlantic right whale is injury sustained from ship strikes. Between 1970 and 1999, 35.5 percent of recorded deaths were attributed to collisions. During 1999 to 2003, incidents of mortality and serious injury attributed to ship strikes averaged one per year. In 2004 to 2006, that number increased to 2.6. Deaths from collisions has become an extinction threat.
Exhaust emissions from ships are considered to be a significant source of air pollution, with 18 to 30 percent of all nitrogen oxide and 9 percent of sulphur oxide pollution. The 15 biggest ships emit about as much sulphur oxide pollution as all cars combined. "By 2010, up to 40 percent of air pollution over land could come from ships." Sulfur in the air creates acid rain which damages crops and buildings. When inhaled the sulfur is known to cause respiratory problems and even increase the risk of a heart attack. According to Irene Blooming, a spokeswoman for the European environmental coalition Seas at Risk, the fuel used in oil tankers and container ships is high in sulfur and cheaper to buy compared to the fuel used for domestic land use. "A ship lets out around 50 times more sulfur than a lorry per metric tonne of cargo carried." Cities in the U.S. like Long Beach, Los Angeles, Houston, Galveston, and Pittsburgh see some of the heaviest shipping traffic in the nation and have left local officials desperately trying to clean up the air. Increasing trade between the U.S. and China is helping to increase the number of vessels navigating the Pacific and exacerbating many of the environmental problems. To maintain the level of growth China is currently experiencing, large amounts of grain are being shipped to China by the boat load. The number of voyages are expected to continue increasing.
3.5 to 4 percent of all climate change emissions are caused by shipping. Air pollution from cruise ships is generated by diesel engines that burn high sulfur content fuel oil, also known as bunker oil, producing sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and particulate, in addition to carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and hydrocarbons. Diesel exhaust has been classified by EPA as a likely human carcinogen. EPA recognizes that these emissions from marine diesel engines contribute to ozone and carbon monoxide nonattainment (i.e., failure to meet air quality standards), as well as adverse health effects associated with ambient concentrations of particulate matter and visibility, haze, acid deposition, and eutrophication and nitrification of water. EPA estimates that large marine diesel engines accounted for about 1.6 percent of mobile source nitrogen oxide emissions and 2.8 percent of mobile source particulate emissions in the United States in 2000. Contributions of marine diesel engines can be higher on a port-specific basis. Ultra-low sulfur diesel (ULSD) (also spelled “sulphur”) is a term used to describe a standard for defining diesel fuel with substantially lowered sulfur contents. As of 2006, almost all of the petroleum-based diesel fuel available in Europe and North America is of a ULSD type.
As one way to reduce the impact of greenhouse gas emissions from shipping, vetting agency RightShip has developed an online “GHG Emissions Rating” as a systematic way for the industry to compare a ship’s CO2 emissions to peer vessels of a similar size and type. Using higher rated ships can deliver significantly lower CO2 emissions across the voyage length.
One source of environmental pressures on maritime vessels recently has come from states and localities, as they assess the contribution of commercial marine vessels to regional air quality problems when ships are docked in port. For instance, large marine diesel engines are believed to contribute 7 percent of mobile source nitrogen oxide emissions in Baton Rouge/New Orleans. Ships can also have a significant impact in areas without large commercial ports: they contribute about 37 percent of total area nitrogen oxide emissions in the Santa Barbara area, and that percentage is expected to increase to 61 percent by 2015. Again, there is little cruise-industry specific data on this issue. They comprise only a small fraction of the world shipping fleet, but cruise ship emissions may exert significant impacts on a local scale in specific coastal areas that are visited repeatedly. Shipboard incinerators also burn large volumes of garbage, plastics, and other waste, producing ash that must be disposed of. Incinerators may release toxic emissions as well.
In 2005 MARPOL Annex VI came into force to combat this problem. As such cruise ships now employ cctv monitoring on the smoke stacks as well as recorded measuring via opacity meter with some also using clean burning gas turbines for electrical loads and propulsion in sensitive areas.
Most commonly associated with ship pollution are oil spills. While less frequent than the pollution that occurs from daily operations, oil spills have devastating effects. While being toxic to marine life, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), the components in crude oil, are very difficult to clean up, and last for years in the sediment and marine environment. Marine species constantly exposed to PAHs can exhibit developmental problems, susceptibility to disease, and abnormal reproductive cycles. One of the more widely known spills was the Exxon Valdez incident in Alaska. The ship ran aground and dumped a massive amount of oil into the ocean in March 1989. Despite efforts of scientists, managers, and volunteers over 400,000 seabirds, about 1,000 sea otters, and immense numbers of fish were killed.
Some of the major international efforts in the form of treaties are the Marine Pollution Treaty, Honolulu, which deals with regulating marine pollution from ships, and the UN Convention on Law of the Sea, which deals with marine species and pollution. While plenty of local and international regulations have been introduced throughout maritime history, much of the current regulations are considered inadequate. “In general, the treaties tend to emphasize the technical features of safety and pollution control measures without going to the root causes of sub-standard shipping, the absence of incentives for compliance and the lack of enforceability of measures.” Cruise ships, for example, are exempt from regulation under the US discharge permit system (NPDES, under the Clean Water Act) that requires compliance with technology-based standards. In the Caribbean, many ports lack proper waste disposal facilities, and many ships dump their waste at sea.
The cruise line industry dumps 255,000 US gallons (970 m3) of greywater and 30,000 US gallons (110 m3) of blackwater into the sea every day. Blackwater is sewage, wastewater from toilets and medical facilities, which can contain harmful bacteria, pathogens, viruses, intestinal parasites, and harmful nutrients. Discharges of untreated or inadequately treated sewage can cause bacterial and viral contamination of fisheries and shellfish beds, producing risks to public health. Nutrients in sewage, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, promote excessive algal blooms, which consumes oxygen in the water and can lead to fish kills and destruction of other aquatic life. A large cruise ship (3,000 passengers and crew) generates an estimated 55,000 to 110,000 liters per day of blackwater waste.
Due to the environmental impact of shipping, and sewage in particular marpol annex IV was brought into force September 2003 strictly limiting untreated waste discharge. Modern cruise ships are most commonly installed with a membrane bioreactor type treatment plant for all blackwater and greywater, such as Zenon or Rochem which produce near drinkable quality effluent to be re-used in the machinery spaces as technical water.
Greywater is wastewater from the sinks, showers, galleys, laundry, and cleaning activities aboard a ship. It can contain a variety of pollutant substances, including fecal coliforms, detergents, oil and grease, metals, organic compounds, petroleum hydrocarbons, nutrients, food waste, medical and dental waste. Sampling done by the EPA and the state of Alaska found that untreated greywater from cruise ships can contain pollutants at variable strengths and that it can contain levels of fecal coliform bacteria several times greater than is typically found in untreated domestic wastewater. Greywater has potential to cause adverse environmental effects because of concentrations of nutrients and other oxygen-demanding materials, in particular. Greywater is typically the largest source of liquid waste generated by cruise ships (90 to 95 percent of the total). Estimates of greywater range from 110 to 320 liters per day per person, or 330,000 to 960,000 million liters per day for a 3,000-person cruise ship.
Solid waste generated on a ship includes glass, paper, cardboard, aluminium and steel cans, and plastics. It can be either non-hazardous or hazardous in nature. Solid waste that enters the ocean may become marine debris, and can then pose a threat to marine organisms, humans, coastal communities, and industries that utilize marine waters. Cruise ships typically manage solid waste by a combination of source reduction, waste minimisation, and recycling. However, as much as 75 percent of solid waste is incinerated on board, and the ash typically is discharged at sea, although some is landed ashore for disposal or recycling. Marine mammals, fish, sea turtles, and birds can be injured or killed from entanglement with plastics and other solid waste that may be released or disposed off of cruise ships. On average, each cruise ship passenger generates at least two pounds of non-hazardous solid waste per day. With large cruise ships carrying several thousand passengers, the amount of waste generated in a day can be massive. For a large cruise ship, about 8 tons of solid waste are generated during a one-week cruise. It has been estimated that 24 percent of the solid waste generated by vessels worldwide (by weight) comes from cruise ships. Most cruise ship garbage is treated on board (incinerated, pulped, or ground up) for discharge overboard. When garbage must be off-loaded (for example, because glass and aluminium cannot be incinerated), cruise ships can put a strain on port reception facilities, which are rarely adequate to the task of serving a large passenger vessel.
On a ship, oil often leaks from engine and machinery spaces or from engine maintenance activities and mixes with water in the bilge, the lowest part of the hull of the ship. Oil, gasoline, and by-products from the biological breakdown of petroleum products can harm fish and wildlife and pose threats to human health if ingested. Oil in even minute concentrations can kill fish or have various sub-lethal chronic effects. Bilge water also may contain solid wastes and pollutants containing high amounts of oxygen-demanding material, oil and other chemicals. A typical large cruise ship will generate an average of 8 metric tons of oily bilge water for each 24 hours of operation. To maintain ship stability and eliminate potentially hazardous conditions from oil vapors in these areas, the bilge spaces need to be flushed and periodically pumped dry. However, before a bilge can be cleared out and the water discharged, the oil that has been accumulated needs to be extracted from the bilge water, after which the extracted oil can be reused, incinerated, and/or offloaded in port. If a separator, which is normally used to extract the oil, is faulty or is deliberately bypassed, untreated oily bilge water could be discharged directly into the ocean, where it can damage marine life. A number of cruise lines have been charged with environmental violations related to this issue in recent years.
Issues by region
It is expected that, “…shipping traffic to and from the USA is projected to double by 2020."
- Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships
- American Bureau of Shipping
- Cruise ship pollution in the United States
- National Oil and Hazardous Substances Contingency Plan
- Oil Pollution Act of 1990
- Regulation of ship pollution in the United States
- List of environmental issues
- Marine debris
- Oil spill
- Bottom paint
- Environmental threats to the Great Barrier Reef
- Classification society (technical standards NGO)
- Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter
- International Association of Classification Societies
- Marine fuel management
- North Pacific Gyre
- Particle (ecology)
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- ^ National Invasive Species Act of 1996, Pub.L. 104-332, 110 Stat. 4073, 16 U.S.C. § 4701. Approved 1996-10-26.
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- ^ The Ocean Conservancy, “Cruise Control, A Report on How Cruise Ships Affect the Marine Environment,” May 2002, p. 13.
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- ^ Cruise Control, p. 15.
- ^ The Center for Environmental Leadership in Business, “A Shifting Tide, Environmental Challenges and Cruise Industry Responses,” p. 14.
- ^ Bluewater Network, “Cruising for Trouble: Stemming the Tide of Cruise Ship Pollution,” March 2000, p. 5. A report prepared for an industry group estimated that a 3,000-person cruise ship generates 1.1 million US gallons (4,200 m3) of graywater during a seven-day cruise. Don K. Kim, “Cruise Ship Waste Dispersion Analysis Report on the Analysis of Graywater Discharge,” presented to the International Council of Cruise Lines, September 14, 2000.
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- Copeland, Claudia (2008). "Cruise Ship Pollution: Background, Laws and Regulations, and Key Issues." CRS Report for Congress. Order Code RL32450. Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service. Updated 2008-02-06.
- Maritime International Secretariat Services - Shipping Industry Guidance on Environmental Compliance
- GloBallast partnership (IMO)
- International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships' Ballast Water and Sediments, 2004 - IMO
- Cruise Ship Pollution Overview - Oceana
Human impact on the environment CausesAgricultureFishing · Irrigation · Meat production · Palm oilManufactured productsTransportAviation · Roads · ShippingOtherMining · War EffectsCoral reefs · Nitrogen cycle Pollution Air pollution Water pollutionEnvironmental impact of pharmaceuticals and personal care products · Environmental impact of shipping · Environmental monitoring · Eutrophication · Freshwater environmental quality parameters · Hypoxia · Marine debris · Marine pollution · Ocean acidification · Oil spill · Surface runoff · Thermal pollution · Urban runoff · Wastewater · Water quality · Water stagnation · Waterborne diseases Soil contamination Radioactive contamination Other types of pollution Inter-government treaties Major organizations
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