Out of sight and therefore out of mind, most of us are unaware of just how much shipping pollutes. Ships burn diesel, emitting greenhouse gases in such quantities that, compared to individual countries, shipping is the world’s sixth largest contributor to global warming. Tiny airborne particles in exhaust fumes kill tens of thousands a year, and the sulphur also produced creates acid rain.
Which is why two announcements this week are such good news.
The first electrically-powered car ferry, made by Siemens, will begin operation in 2015 on a route between Lavik and Oppedal in Norway. Recharging its batteries in a ten minute turnaround, the ferry saves 1,000,000 litres of diesel a year. Its catamaran design and aluminium hulls mean it weighs half as much as a conventional car ferry and emits 570 tonnes less carbon dioxide.
Staying in Nordic countries, the second piece of good news comes from Finland, where the first gas-powered passenger ferry has been bought by the shipping company Viking Line. Burning gas instead of diesel means a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions of 15%,. Nitrogen and particulates are reduced by 85% and sulphur emissions are zero. The ship will service the route between Turku and Mariehamn in Finland and the Swedish capital, Stockholm.
It looks as though the clean air is blowing from northern Europe.