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Shipping Pollution Mapped

NO2 (nitrogen dioxide) pollution caused by ships is a significant environmental concern. Ships are responsible for more than 18% of nitrogen oxides pollution. Cruise ships pollute 4 times more than airplanes, per passenger. Not cars. Compared to cars, ships are an absolute abomination.

Ships emit NO2 and other pollutants as a result of burning fossil fuels, such as heavy fuel oil or marine diesel, in their engines.  This includes both auxiliary engines used for electricity generation and propulsion engines that power the ship.

NO2 is a major contributor to air pollution, and high levels of exposure can lead to respiratory problems, particularly in vulnerable populations such as children and the elderly. It also contributes to the formation of smog and acid rain, which can have detrimental effects on ecosystems, vegetation, and water bodies.

The animated map below shows NO2 pollution in the Mediterranean, clearly depicting the shipping routes that criss-cross the sea.

To address NO2 pollution from ships, international and regional regulations have been established. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) sets standards and guidelines through conventions like the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL). MARPOL Annex VI specifically addresses air pollution from ships and sets limits on NOx (nitrogen oxides) emissions, including NO2.

To reduce NO2 emissions, several measures are being implemented. One approach is the use of cleaner fuels with lower sulfur content, such as marine gas oil or liquefied natural gas (LNG), which can help decrease NO2 emissions. Another strategy is the installation of exhaust gas cleaning systems (commonly known as scrubbers) that can reduce the amount of NO2 and other pollutants released into the atmosphere.

Advancements in ship design and engine technology play a crucial role in reducing NO2 emissions. More efficient engines, optimized fuel combustion, and better emission control systems can significantly decrease the amount of NO2 generated during ship operations.

Efforts are ongoing to further reduce NO2 emissions from ships. This includes the exploration of alternative propulsion systems, such as hydrogen fuel cells and electric power, as well as the development of more stringent emission standards and regulations.

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