The Hidden Costs of Shipping

shipping.jpgJoel Makower’s latest post on Grist brings up some great things to be aware of regarding the environmental costs of shipping.
As with most fossil fuel dependant businesses I don’t think we’re going to see a great deal of change until the price of oil instigates it, but that’s not stopping a lot of interesting companies from starting to think about new innovation. My personal favorite is skysails, a concept to attach giant sails to stadard vessels, thus increasing fuel economy by significant amounts. Other, simpler efforts are under way to streamline tractor-trailers on the interstates (a friend of mine is working on this problem) and some people are even trying to re-introduce hydrogen airships.
The best part of all these things is that they reduce costs for existing businesses while at the same time creating a myriad of new business opportunities for entrpreneurs of all sizes. My advice is to start thinking about fuel cost reduction technology and you’ll have a winner of an idea.

Nick Aster is a new media architect and the founder of TriplePundit.com

TriplePundit.com has since grown to become one of the web's leading sources of news and ideas on how business can be used to make the world a better place.

Prior to TriplePundit Nick worked for Mother Jones magazine, successfully re-launching the magazine's online presence. He worked for TreeHugger.com, managing the technical side of the publication for 3 years and has also been an active consultant for individuals and companies entering the world of micro-publishing. He earned his stripes working for Gawker Media and Moreover Technologies in the early days of blogging.

Nick holds an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio School of Management and graduated with a BA in History from Washington University in St. Louis.

4 responses

  1. While Joel made some good points, he also misled the reader on two points in particular. He said that a cargo ship emits as much pollution as 2000 trucks, which might seem shocking until you realize that a container ship can carry up to 3500 truck’s worth of cargo. Thus, a ship pollutes less per container than a truck does.
    Also he brought up the ballast water issue and referenced a ballast water sample taken in Canada that contained a lot of invasive organisms. He failed to mention the fact that in the US, ships are required to exchange ballast water from the previous port with mid-ocean water, which has a lot fewer critters that could survive to create a problem at the next port. The US Coast Guard is nearly done developing a standard for ballast water treatment, and there are responsible shipping companies working to test out new technologies to reduce air emissions and to improve ballast water treatment.

  2. Kelly, while YOU made some good points, you fail to point out that the average truck journey is an order of magnitude shorter than the average ship’s journey, and, regarding ballast organisms, that controlling US ports will be at US taxpayer and US consumer expense, while lack of control at the remainder of the world’s ports will result in increased shipments in and through non-US, non-controlled ports. Tanstaafl.

  3. Kelly, while YOU made some good points, you fail to point out that the average truck journey is an order of magnitude shorter than the average ship’s journey, and, regarding ballast organisms, that controlling US ports will be at US taxpayer and US consumer expense, while lack of control at the remainder of the world’s ports will result in increased shipments in and through non-US, non-controlled ports. Tanstaafl.

  4. hmmmmmmmmm,
    Absolutely ridiculous to compare trucking with cargo ships – the emissions are nowhere near the same scale, nor any pollution.
    But, you fail to mention that many shipping companies offer a ‘door-door’ service. So, advocating green ships is fine. But, if they offload the container to be transported by a ‘sub-contractor’ 200 miles in a gas guzzling c02 / Sulphur machine??? Who’s responsibility is that??
    The multi-modal nature of international transport carries the same inherent problems as many environmental issues i.e. who’s responsibility is it?

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