While the waterborne mode of transportation may be the most fuel efficient, it does not mean that dirty air emissions are not a problem. The majority of international vessels entering the Great Lakes are newer vessels which have efficient diesel engines. Unfortunately they generally burn the same dirty fuel (bunker oil) that most international vessels are allowed to burn under current international mandates. In contrast, the older domestic Great Lakes fleet is a mix of different vessels, engines and fuels. Some are decades old with older engines burning diesel, while others are still steamships that, despite burning dirty bunker oil, emit fewer emissions than their diesel counterparts because of how the fuel is burned.
Regardless, numerous scientific reports find that poor air quality increases the risk of cancer, leads to asthma, and is associated with heart attacks and bronchitis.1,2 When it comes to human health, ‘cleaner than the competition’ is not enough. Shipping contributes to this decrease in air quantity. Both international and domestic vessels must reduce their air emissions.
Canada and the US are proposing to create a North American Emission Control Area, starting in 2015 to control nitrogen oxides, sulphur oxides and particulate matter emissions.3 For example, international vessels coming to U.S. and Canadian waters, including those entering the Great Lakes, will be required to meet sulphur-dioxide emission reductions equivalent to burning fuel with less than 0.1 per cent sulphur. Sulphur oxides also contribute to climate change and the proposal is a significant decrease from current international mandates. Unfortunately, domestic vessels are not yet required to meet these same standards.
- Ensure international vessels meet the emissions standards outlined by the Canada-U.S. Emission Control for Ships and targeted for implementation in 2015.
- Extend these standards to apply to all ships operating on the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River, whether flagged internationally or domestically.
10 Clean Air Task Force, David Marshall, October 9, 2008 Thousands of Lives to be Saved each Year Under the New Pollution Accord.
11 California Air Resources Board, Diesel Risk Reduction Plan, October 2000.
12 The North American Emmissions Control Area application submitted by the U.S. and Canada to the International Maritime Organization