COLOMBO (EconomyNext) – Exhaust smoke from ships is one of the main causes of air pollution in port cities, according to experts who spoke at an international forum on air quality held in the Sri Lankan capital Colombo, itself a port city.
Mark Kasman, Senior Advisor for the Asia-Pacific Region at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, said their studies show how ship emissions pollute the air as far inland as Nebraska, which is in the middle of the United States.
Just seven of today’s largest merchant ships can generate over 300 megawatts of power, about the same as an average coal power plant, he said.
Axel Friedrich, former Director Environment, Transport and Noise Division of Germany’s Federal Environmental Agency, said up to 50,000 people are killed in Europe each year because of shipping missions.
The US and Canada are adopting a North American emission control area from next month as is the European Union where ships will have to burn clean, low-sulphur diesel to comply with the new regulations.
"Our model shows the emissions impact not only our port cities but as far inland as Nebraska which is in the middle of the US," Kasman said.
"So if the middle of our country is affected by pollution from marine emissions in ports, it’s happening across countries around the world."
Hong Kong, one of the world’s busiest ports, also plans to impose emission controls on ships at berth from next year but no emission control areas are planned in Asia yet.
The low grade bunker fuel used by ships contains up to 2,000 times the amount of sulphur compared to diesel fuel used in automobiles.
The EPA’s Kasman said air quality rules like ECAs that restrict marine vessel emission have multiple benefits, not only reducing toxic sulphur content in air but cleaning up water and the entire eco-system.
For countries to implement effective air quality rules and develop cost-effective ways to improve the sustainability of their transport systems they need comprehensive emission inventories of each port covering trucks, trains and vessels.
There will have to be action plans developed with targets tailored to each port and emission source type.
"There’s no one size fits all," Kasman said.
"In the US we work collaboratively with all stake holders and partner with them to implement the solution – from environmental groups to shipping and trucking communities."
Both experts spoke at the Better Air Quality 2014 and Environmentally Sustainable Transport Forum in Asia organised by the UN.