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The Hidden Costs of Shipping

| Wednesday May 24th, 2006 | 4 Comments

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.


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  • Kelly

    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.

  • dave

    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.

  • dave

    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.

  • Doug

    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?