Oil tankers worldwide transport over 2.4 billion tonnes of oil annually. Two thirds of the oil and oil products that the world consumes are transported by sea. Oil tankers are environmentally-friendly, energy-efficient and effective in terms of minimizing greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions compared to other forms of transport.
One litre of fuel on a modern VLCC moves one tonne of cargo more than 2,800 kilometres; this is more than twice as far as 20 years ago. The average carbon footprint (in terms of CO2 per tonne-kilometre) of each of the world's oil tankers is less than one tenth of a heavy truck and less than one hundredth of an aircraft.
World shipping carries 90% of world trade and modern bulk carriers, container ships and other cargo ships, - supplying the world with energy, moving raw materials and shipping finished goods - are similarly environment-friendly and energy-efficient.
Over recent years tanker owners have invested an average of nearly USD 32bn a year in new ships and today over 75% of the internationally traded fleet is double hulled. With this increased protection for the oil cargo, as well as the ship's fuel tanks, accidental oil spills this decade have been at record low levels - one third of the previous decade and one tenth of the 1970s - at a time when oil transported has more than doubled since the mid 1980s.
Engines are more efficient and other measures, such as segregated ballast water, the application of new tin-free paints, optimal weather routing and the recovery of otherwise wasted heat from the engine and auxiliaries, have resulted in significant gains in energy efficiency and reductions in environmental impact.
Air emissions from ships are regulated by the United Nations' International Maritime Organization (IMO). In 1997 an International Convention on the Regulation of Air Pollution from Ships (MARPOL Annex VI) was adopted. This Convention covers the emissions of oxides of sulphur (SOx) and nitrogen (NOx) as well CFCs and VOCs, and makes provisions for regional control zones for sulphur emissions. As early as 2000 the IMO produced a study on Green House Gas (GHG) emissions and is currently working on an update to give a better foundation for future decisions. Additional measures to regulate GHG emissions are under review and will be debated more fully in the first half of 2008. Sulphur levels in most fuels used today by ships average just 60% of the maximum permissible level in the IMO regulations. Within Sulphur Emission Control Areas (SECAs), currently covering the Baltic Sea and from November the North Sea and English Channel, where maximum sulphur levels are set at one third of the global level, the sulphur level of the fuels used by ships is frequently below the maximum permissible level. Since 2000 all new engines installed on ships also produce significantly lower NOx emissions.
Growth in World Trade
World trade and ship numbers have naturally seen a steady increase over recent years, but in parallel there have been economies of scale (with larger, more efficient ships) and on a per unit basis emissions both of harmful substances (pollutants) and GHGs from ships have been reduced, allowing shipping still justifiably to assert that it is the most environmentally-friendly and the most energy-efficient transport mode.
Even if shipping will never replace all the other transport modes more shipping is part of the solution to the challenges of air emissions and global warming which face the world today.
Tanker owners, and INTERTANKO, are totally committed to remaining at the forefront in providing the world with safe, environmentally sound and efficient seaborne transportation of oil, gas and chemical products.
Source: Intertanko, the International Association of Independent Tanker Owners