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Cleaner Shipping: Air pollution, climate, technical solutions and regulation

The Danish Centre for Environment and Energy (DCE) at Aarhus University has estimated that air pollution from shipping causes about 50,000 premature deaths in Europe every year. However, the new global sulphur cap from 2020 has reduced the mortality and morbidity related to air pollution from shipping by around 20%, which clearly illustrates that regulation can be an efficient solution. However, air pollution from shipping still causes around 40,000 premature deaths in Europe every year and related health costs above USD 65 billion. On top of this comes damage to the climate, nature, crops, buildings, etc. Emissions of NOx, PM2.5, CO₂, black carbon and other key pollutants from shipping – and the related adverse effects – are expected to increase with the growth in shipping. Further regula- tion of pollution from shipping and new zero carbon fuels are urgently needed.

As an example, the seas around Denmark have more than 60,000 ship passages of large commercial ships every year. Large container ships only sail 5-10 meters per litre of fuel. Consequently, huge amounts of fuel are combusted in the seas around Denmark resulting in serious air pollution. DCE estimated in 2019 that air pollution from international shipping annually caused around 650 premature deaths in Denmark and health costs added up to about USD 1.7 billion. The 2020 global sulphur cap did not reduce these adverse effects significantly since Denmark is geographically inside a SECA that already has stricter reg- ulation. If no new actions are taken to further reduce air pollution from shipping, air pollution from shipping in the seas around Denmark will cause almost the same amount of negative health effects in Denmark in 2030 as all domestic pollution sources that are much stricter reg- ulated.

This publication focuses on air pollution with CO₂, SO₂, NOx and particles from shipping, technical solutions as well as existing and further regulation and enforcement. The purpose is to inform and inspire decision makers and other stake- holders to implement ambitious regulation to reduce air pollution from shipping to the benefit of the climate, public health and nature.
Finally, this publication can be used for teaching.

Shipping causes other serious en- vironmental problems e.g. pollution with invasive species, underwater noise, oil pollution, etc. These are widely described elsewhere and therefore not included.

From table 1 is seen that the average health costs per kilogram of emitted pollutants are higher inside SECA than outside SECA as emissions in- side SECA on average are more con- centrated in the vicinity of densely populated areas. Total health costs from the three key air pollutants emitted when ships burn one tonne of fuel oil are around USD 1,300 outside the SECA and around USD 3,000 inside the SECA even though distillate fuel used inside the SECA contains five times less sulphur. In comparison, the price of VLSFO was about USD 560 per tonne, while distillate fuel for use in SECAs costs approximately USD 640 per tonne (September 2021). If the costs of negative health effects caused by air pollution was shifted to ship-owners in terms of increased fuel prices, the fuel price would increase more than three times outside SECAs and more than five times inside SECAs. This would immediately make ship-owners switch to distillate fuel on a glob al level and install efficient flue gas cleaning.
To read the full report, please click here: https://rgo.dk/wp-content/uploads/RGO_Cleaner_shipping_2021_Final.pdf
Source: Danish Centre for Environment and Energy (DCE) at Aarhus University

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