Global shipping companies are spending billions of dollars to invest in equipment that allows them to utilize environmental loopholes, dumping pollution into the sea rather than into the air, reports The Independent.
New environmental legislation meant to tackle air pollution from cruise ships is set to go into effect on January 1, 2020. Rather than comply legitimately with these new international standards, the shipping industry has instead spent $12 billion on devices that extract sulfur from the exhaust fumes of ships, which is then rerouted and expelled into the ocean water.
The result is that shipping companies comply with the new standards by polluting something else, thus savings themselves and their shareholders millions of dollars.
Experts warn that these “open-loop scrubbers” expel chemicals that not only increase carbon dioxide emissions but could have a “devastating effect on wildlife in British waters and around the world.”
Of the 3,756 ships that have already had scrubbers installed, only 23 of them have had “closed-loop scrubbers” installed, those that do not discharge into the sea. These ships will have to take the additional steps of discharging the extracted sulphur at safe disposal facilities.
The expended sulfur causes increased acidification of the surrounding water. “Wildlife in these areas is likely to be far more vulnerable to the effects of having ships discharging huge volumes of acidic, polluted, warm water from scrubbers,” said Lucy Gilliam from the Brussels-based NGO Transport and Environment.
Gilliam says that the new international standards contain too few parameters to ensure the cruise ships make serious steps to curb their pollution.
Pollution specifically from cruise ships will be a problem. According to the International Council on Clean Transportation, cruise ships with scrubbers “will consume around 4 million tons of heavy fuel oil in 2020 and will discharge 180 million tons of contaminated scrubber washwater overboard.”