Speed limits on cargo ships could reduce their pollutants by more than half

December 13, 2012

WASHINGTON, Dec. 13, 2012 -- The latest episode in the American Chemical Society's (ACS') award-winning Global Challenges/Chemistry Solutions podcast series reports that putting a speed limit on cargo ships as they sail near ports and coastlines could cut their emission of air pollutants by up to 70 percent, reducing the impact of marine shipping on Earth's climate and human health.

Based on a report by David R. Cocker III, Ph.D., and colleagues in ACS' journal Environmental Science & Technology, the new podcast is available without charge at iTunes and from www.acs.org/globalchallenges.

In the new episode, Cocker explains that marine shipping is the most efficient form of transporting goods, with more than 100,000 ships carrying 90 percent of the world's cargo. However, engines on these vessels burn low-grade oil that produces large amounts of air pollution. Because fuel consumption and smokestack emissions increase exponentially with speed, the authors explored how speed limits could reduce pollution.

The researchers found that slowing container ships to about 14 miles per hour (mph) reduced emissions of carbon dioxide (the main greenhouse gas) by about 60 percent and nitrogen oxides by 55 percent compared to emissions at traditional cruising speeds of 25-29 mph. Soot emissions fell by almost 70 percent.

They suggest that imposing these speed limits on vessels near ports and coastlines could significantly reduce their pollution and protect the health of people living in those areas.
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Global Challenges/Chemistry Solutions is a series of podcasts describing some of the 21st century's most daunting problems, and how cutting-edge research in chemistry matters in the quest for solutions. Global Challenges is the centerpiece in an alliance on sustainability between ACS and the Royal Society of Chemistry. Global Challenges is a sweeping panorama of global challenges that includes dilemmas such as providing a hungry and thirsty world with ample supplies of safe food and clean water, developing alternatives to petroleum to fuel society, preserving the environment and ensuring a sustainable future for our children and improving human health.

For more entertaining, informative science videos and podcasts from the ACS Office of Public Affairs, view Prized Science, Spellbound, Science Elements and Global Challenges/Chemistry Solutions.

The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. With more than 164,000 members, ACS is the world's largest scientific society and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

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