We bet you didn’t know that today is International Day of the Seafarer. Started in 2011, June 25 is a day to raise awareness about the little known contributions seafarers make in your everyday life. (Photo – The International Register Management)
90% of Consumer Goods Shipped by Sea
Take a look around you right now. See that TV? Or that phone in your hand? It likely got there after a trip on the high seas. In fact, 90% of global consumer goods like food, electronics and clothes enter the global economy on container ships. With globalization, the demand for goods is only expected to rise, and so will the demand for seaborne trade.
As ocean lovers, we decided to take a deeper dive into the shipping industry, both the pros and the cons.
Shipping By Sea Is Efficient But Has Impact
It turns out that shipping is the greenest form of transporting goods. According to an article in the New Economy, estimates suggest container ships emit roughly 40 times less carbon dioxide than large freight aircraft, and three times less than a large truck. Container ships are 2.5 times more energy efficient than train transport and seven times more than road. (Graph – Network for Transport and the Environment)
20 Million Containers At Sea Now!
However, there are nearly 20 millions containers being shipped across the ocean at any one time. The sheer scope of the industry cancels out it being the greenest. See for yourself the extent of shipping around the world at any given time:
What’s even more shocking is that the industry is largely unregulated. It emits 3-4% of global gas emissions. It has a carbon footprint equivalent to Germany’s. And it’s the only economic sector that’s not subject to any treaty on climate change, emissions controls or even subject to reduction targets.
Bunker Fuel is the World’s Dirtiest!
Additionally, shipping uses bunker fuel, the world’s dirtiest diesel fuel – a toxic, tar-like sludge that usually contains 3,500 times more sulphur than the diesel used for cars. Seventeen of the largest ships emit more sulfur than all the cars in the world and sulfur causes severe health problems. Why do they use it? One reason is because it’s cheap. (Photo – Ben Matthews)
See Sea Blind
A new documentary taking a hard look at the shipping industry is Sea Blind. After attempting to ski from the North Pole to Canada in 2014, climate journalist Bernice Notenboom was cut short 100 kilometers from her goal due to melting sea ice. This experience opened up her eyes to climate change and the opportunities that the shipping industry will have once the Arctic ice melts completely. Throughout her journey investigating the shipping industry, Bernice uncovers a little known secret: up to forty percent of Arctic melting may be slowed by taking action against black carbon emissions, half of which comes from ships.
What You Can Do!
With nearly all goods coming by boat, what can you do to minimize your impact? Buy local goods as much as possible and consider eating fruits and vegetables that are only in season. To help put the importance of buying local goods in perspective, consider this tidbit from The Atlantic:
It’s less expensive to ship Scottish cod 10,000 miles away to China to be filleted and then sent back to Scotland than it is to pay Scottish filleters to do the job. Of course, this reflects mostly on the cheapness of Chinese labor, but it does also show shipping’s low costs.
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