This week, two major shipping lines, Maersk and APL, announced that they will use low-sulfur fuel while in the Port of Singapore. These efforts constitute an extension of Maersk and APL’s clean fuel programs in North America, and go above and beyond existing regulatory requirements.
Five years ago, Maersk began using low-sulfur fuels in North America, and has since cut its sulfur oxide emissions by 95% and fine particles by 86%. APL’s decision will result in similarly outstanding emissions reductions and lead to more lives saved. APL alone makes 900 ship calls per year at the Port of Singapore. Sulfur oxide and fine particulate matter are associated with a myriad of public health impacts, including premature death, increased cancer risk, a host of respiratory illnesses, and adverse birth outcomes like premature birth and low birth-weight. Children, the elderly, and anyone living in close proximity to ports are disproportionately affected by such emissions. Moreover, you do not need to live next to a port to be impacted by ship pollution. In California, 80 percent of the population (27 million Californians) are exposed to ship pollution due to geography and wind patterns.
My work at NRDC has focused primarily on reducing pollution from ships, trucks and trains that visit California ports. While we have a long way to go before we “green” the freight transportation system, efforts like those made by Maersk and APL demonstrate that it’s not just environmentalists that are at the forefront of the sustainability movement—industry leaders are there too.