Maritime transport is responsible for much of the greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere. The sustained growth of commercial movements has multiplied the negative weight of this activity in the use of fossil fuels and, therefore, of the balance of the climate crisis.
High seas, “nobody’s” waters that have no one to defend them
Last year, the European Union established carbon intensity targets for fuels used in the marine environment that push to abandon heavy fuel oil, the most widely used today. The commercial fleet, in fact, is abandoning fuel oil for liquefied natural gas (LNG): in 2021, shipowners ordered more LNG ships than in the previous four years.
But associations such as Transport & Environment (T&E) warn that this fuel is far from being harmless or green. In an investigation whose conclusions have been published this Tuesday, T&E ensures that ships release considerable amounts of methane, another powerful greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere. “Specifically, 87 times more powerful than CO2,” explains Carlos Bravo, spokesman for Transport & Environment in Spain.
The organization has recorded the activity of large ships in the port of Rotterdam, the largest in Europe, with a special state-of-the-art infrared camera that has a special filter for the detection of hydrocarbons.
In the video, which is dated last November, “methane emissions are clearly observed in significant quantities from two ships.” Since LNG usually contains 90% methane, “any unburned fuel that leaks through the engine will be mainly composed of this gas, which contributes to global warming,” defends the organization.
According to data from the International Maritime Organization (IMO), depending on the type of engine, between 0.2% and more than 3% of the gas escapes in the combustion process, which is released directly into the atmosphere.
“We are in the midst of a climate crisis, we cannot afford to emit more methane into the atmosphere. Our research is just a small sample, but it should serve as a warning to policymakers: favoring LNG is betting on the losing horse. Instead, we should prioritize 100% green solutions based entirely on green hydrogen”, says Delphine Gozillon, head of T&E’s Maritime Transport department.