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The shipping industry’s real environmental image

The shipping industry’s real environmental image

I read an awful lot of press releases, and listen to many speeches, about how shipping is really an environmentally friendly industry, this is despite the fact the vast majority of it burns what is essentially refining industry waste for fuel.

On the flipside I also read many press releases targeting the industry’s environmental record, particularly when it comes to dealing with emissions.

For most, as industry associations often lament, the industry is largely invisible, but when you see what it looks like in one of the few places where it is highly visible to the general public – off the coast of Singapore its can’t be said it presents a great image.

Taking a 50-minute walk along Singapore’s east coast park off a morning just before New Year, an area popular with families, cyclists, joggers etc, the environmental image I saw of shipping was not a good one.

I managed to take pictures of two vessels spewing thick black smoke their funnels. Please note I didn’t set out to do this, or even looked hard for the ships in question – I’d have brought a proper camera rather than just my phone if I had – I was simply taking a walk before meeting some friends.

When you see this in a place where the industry is clearly visible near a major urban population centre you cannot help wonder what it looks like away from the public eye.

With an image like these pictures portray you can issue as many releases and statistics proclaiming the industry’s environmental record as you like and it doesn't matter - the general public are not going to believe you.

It is perhaps no surprise that it is those vessels that people see most of – cruise and passenger vessels – that have been among the first to adopt alternative fuels, as thick black, billowing smoke is no longer something the general public is willing to accept.

Posted 02 January 2018