Beholden to no one except the International Maritime Organization, these massive cargo and fuel ships are exempt from the Paris Agreement on climate change because of the international nature of the shipping industry and the spiderweb of entangled ownership. The same ship can be owned by several companies originating from different countries; the contents usually are shipped to many other companies/countries, but flown under a separate flag of tax/regulation friendly countries like Panama. Individual countries do not claim ownership, and thus, out of sight and out of mind, these ships burn the lowest-grade fuel (bunker fuel), and accounted for approx. 919 million tons of CO2 emissions in 2018 according to the International Council on Clean Transportation. This ownership-lattice is a major obstacle in forward progress in reducing emissions.
According to Statista, "Bulk carriers emitted on average 440 million metric tons CO2, while container ships emitted 140 million metric tons CO2 per year."
Burning the world's dirtiest fuel
newatlas). And the fuel they burn is a toxic sludge of the lowest-grade fuel available. Bunker fuel is basically what is left over in the refinement process for diesel manufacturing. The maritime fleet consumes some 7.3 million barrels of bunker fuel a day. As researched by the Guardian, "just 15 of the world's biggest ships may now emit as much pollution as all the world's 760m cars." Or one ship = 50 million cars' emissions.These large ships measure miles-per-gallon a little differently. They measure it in inches, not miles. Large container-ships consume fuel not by the gallons, but by tons-per-hour. Some of the largest engines measure out at five-stories tall and weigh some 2,300 tons. These gargantuan engines that propel the super-carriers across thousands of miles of ocean each year and can burn 16 tons of fuel per hour, or 380 tons per day (
The price for consuming the world's dirtiest and cheapest fuel can be seen in the harmful emissions and environmental degradation. Bunker fuel has up to 2,000 times the sulfur content of diesel fuel used in automobiles. As the Guardian outlines, "Cars driving 15,000km a year emit approximately 101 grammes of sulphur oxide gases (or SOx) in that time. The world's largest ships' diesel engines which typically operate for about 280 days a year generate roughly 5,200 tonnes of SOx." If we really want to make a large, global difference in pollution and GHG emissions, we need to change fuels.
Element One Technology's HythanolPLUS is one of the world's best champions for "instantly" and significantly reducing or eliminating GHG emissions from the worst polluters on the planet. Unlike bunker fuel, HythanolPLUS is biodegradable. The solubility factor for tetrahydrofurans in 2nd generation Biofuels is increased by a factor of 200 compared to straight diesel. These biofuels "dissolve much better in water, which is relevant for potential environmental impacts." (When 2nd generation biofuel meets water - The water solubility and phase stability issue.) Not only will these fuels dramatically decrease GHG emissions, but if and when shipping disasters occur, the impact on the environment will be dramatically decreased. Even production of these fuels equate to a lighter carbon-footprint than bunker-fuel. For the shipping industry, Hy-fuels are a win-win-win scenario.