Ships Ahoy!

November 18, 2014

Shipping is big business—real big. Every year about 90,000 ships carry more than 90 percent of the world's trade across the seas. As this map shows, their routes crisscross our oceans in myriad ways, but the waters have been running much redder over the last two decades. A new study that tracked ships via satellite says the number of vessels on the high seas has surged, increasing fourfold between 1992 and 2012. Shipping is growing everywhere except off the coast of Somalia (because pirates!). This is not good news for the ocean's health. Along with iPhones, orange juice, clothing, and, well, just about everything you buy, these massive boats bring a lot of air, water, and noise pollution with them.

Ships dump fuel, oil, and garbage into the sea, and into the air they emit tons of exhaust and greenhouse gases. In fact, if the shipping industry were a country, it would be the sixth biggest greenhouse gas emitter


onEarth provides reporting and analysis about environmental science, policy, and culture. All opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of NRDC. Learn more or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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