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Because of their colossal engines, each as heavy as a small ship, these super-vessels use as much fuel as small power stations.
But, unlike power stations or cars, they can burn the cheapest, filthiest, high-sulphur fuel: the thick residues left behind in refineries after the lighter liquids have been taken. Thanks to decisions taken in London by the body that polices world shipping, this pollution could kill as many as a million more people in the coming decade – even though a simple change in the rules could stop it.
Thanks to the IMO’s rules, the largest ships can each emit as much as 5,000 tons of sulphur in a year – the same as 50million typical cars, each emitting an average of 100 grams of sulphur a year.
With an estimated 800million cars driving around the planet, that means 16 super-ships can emit as much sulphur as the world fleet of cars.
And, even then, it will depend on a final ‘feasibility review’ in 2018.
In the meantime, according to Corbett’s figures, nearly one million more people will die.
It looks foul, and leaves a brown haze across ports and shipping lanes.
But at the IMO, governments successfully argued that ships from developing countries should not have to cut carbon emissions.
Smoke and sulphur are not the only threats from ships’ funnels.