Big ships are big polluters in US ports - group

03 October 2008 23:06  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS news)--Large ocean-going ships in Houston and other major US ports produce as much pollution as millions of new cars, according to a report released on Friday by an environmental group.

The report, by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), ranks Seattle/Tacoma, Washington; Los Angeles-Long Beach, California; New York City, New York-New Jersey; and Houston, Texas, as the top four largest port polluters.

A spokeswoman for the Port of Houston Authority said they had not seen the report and would not comment.

The ports of southern Louisiana ranked first in the nation in smog-forming oxides but are spread out over the coastal region of the state - New Orleans, the port of south Louisiana, Plaquemine, Baton Rouge and Lake Charles.

The report, "Floating Smokestacks", recommends action at next week’s meeting of the International Maritime Organization that could significantly cut pollution from large ships by requiring cleaner engines as well as fuel and pollution control measures.

Large ships are vital for commerce, but pollution produced by the vessels is harmful to human health, said Janea Scott, EDF senior attorney and the report's co-author.

"Next week’s international meeting is critical in putting in place a clean-air blueprint for these big ships that will mean healthier air for our coastal communities," Scott said.

Ocean-going ships powered by large diesel engines run on a dirty grade of fuel, called bunker fuel, that contains 1,800 times the sulphur content of the US diesel fuel standards for other major diesel engines, the report said.

Ocean-going ships in the Seattle/Tacoma ports annually emit about 12,400 tonnes of smog-forming nitrogen oxides (NOX), comparable to the pollution from more than 13.3m new cars, according to the report.

Vessels transiting the Houston Ship Channel and ports of Houston and Galveston emit 5,600 tonnes of NOX, comparable to the pollution from more than 6m new cars, the report said.

Houston ranks high on the pollution target list of federal regulators, who this week reclassified the Texas city's smog problem as “severe”, a designation held by only one other city in the nation, Los Angeles.

"Unfortunately, Houston is hard hit by some of the most unhealthy smog levels in the nation," said Elena Craft, an air quality specialist in EDF’s Houston office.

"Cleaning up pollution from these floating smokestacks, in addition to the port of Houston implementing a comprehensive clean air plan, is an important step toward restoring healthy air in our community," Craft said.

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By: Lane Kelley
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