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  June 4th, 2024 | Written by

Environmental Groups Push for Decarbonization of Maritime Shipping to Combat Pollution

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Environmental advocates are urging President Joe Biden to sign an executive order to decarbonize maritime shipping at ports in Virginia and across the nation. They propose best practices to curb emissions from the industry, which is responsible for 400,000 premature deaths annually due to pollution.

Read also: Are Freight Companies Working Towards Decarbonization?

International shipping contributes to 3 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. The International Maritime Organization aims for net-zero emissions in the industry by 2050. Antonio Santos, federal climate policy director for the nonprofit Pacific Environment, suggests that ships at anchor should utilize shore power instead of their diesel auxiliary engines.

“That they effectively not use their auxiliary engines, those diesel engines. That they’re plugged in, either to shore power,” Santos explained. “Shore power is the connections where ships can use onshore electrical power instead of their auxiliary engines.”

Additional recommendations include setting a goal-based fuel standard for ships using U.S. ports and supporting the construction of low- and zero-emission ships. Santos noted that these measures could be in place by 2040. The Biden administration is already working toward decarbonizing shipping by 2050 through the Ocean Climate Action Plan.

While some technologies to decarbonize ships are already in use, such as the electric Maid of the Mist in Niagara Falls, full-scale electrification may not be feasible for larger cargo ships. Santos pointed out that other clean fuels, such as ammonia or hydrogen, will be essential.

“Bigger ships, of course, because of the weight of the batteries, not a likely big player in the long-term solutions,” Santos observed. “Which is why they’re looking at some of these other fuel options like ammonia or hydrogen, whether that’s burned in an internal combustion engine or used in a fuel cell.”

Decarbonizing shipping is expected to significantly improve health outcomes in port communities. A National Institutes of Health report found the highest air pollution concentrations along major shipping routes, contributing to 400,000 premature deaths per year worldwide due to air pollution from shipping.