What Are Five Environmental Impacts Related To Shipping?

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The environmental impacts related to shipping call for innovative solutions to these problems. Here are five environmental impacts related to shipping

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The shipping industry is an important economic sector that contributes to more than 80 % of global trade with 1-3 % of world Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Throughout history, billions of containers, solid, liquid, and dry bulk cargo are moved annually across the world’s oceans. This improves the economy of many countries and substantially increases the availability of food, raw materials, etc.  

However, protecting the environment is today’s biggest sustainability challenge for the shipping industry. According to S&P Global Platts Analytics, the shipping industry currently accounts for between 2% and 3% of global CO2 emissions and could be 17% by 2050 if left unregulated.  

Also, sulphur oxide (SOx), Nitrogen oxide (NOx), Particulate Matter (PM), and black carbon have received greater attention because of the significant human health and local environmental impacts. There is a need for quick and practical solutions to the pressing environmental problems associated with the shipping industry.  

5 Environmental Impacts Related To Shipping

1. Air Pollution

Air pollution

Commercial ships burn fuel for energy and emit several types of air pollution as by-products. Ship-source pollutants include carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulphur oxides (SOx) and particulate matter due to the bunker fuel (low-grade heavy fuel oil used to power a ship) used by 80% of ships to power these cargo vessels. 

The carbon dioxide emission changes the oceans’ chemistry, causing it to become more acidic, jeopardising the future of shells producing organisms and coral reefs. The ocean becomes warm, thus increasing the intensity of storms, resulting in sea level risings, disrupting of ecosystems and ocean circulation 

Nitrogen oxide contributes to environmental pollution, leading to ground-level ozone or smog and respiratory issues in humans. Particulate Matter (PM) and sulphur oxide (SOx) contribute to the premature deaths of more than 60,000 people globally and causes respiratory problems in millions of people, specifically those living close to congested ports. With the emission figures in mind, the shipping industry is reducing its air pollution. Guidelines exist to steer this, including the International Maritime Organisation’s (IMO) ‘Greenhouse Gas Strategy (GHG).’  

How is the shipping industry working towards achieving the targets organisations and government bodies present to them? One of the first ways is through the use of innovative technologies. For example, with Sinay’s Air Quality Module, ships and ports can be equipped with sensors which comes with real-time knowledge and smart alerts to help shipping companies monitor toxic levels in fuel emissions, reduce environmental impact, and avoid areas with ecological dangers. 

Your environmental monitoring at your fingertips!

Optimize your environmental monitoring, become smarter and more sustainable with a unified system that gathers all your environmental sensors & data in one place.

Group of adults dolphins and younger dolphins

2. Noise Pollution

Noise pollution in port

Noise pollution caused by shipping has increased over the years. The noise produced by ships can travel long distances, and marine species that rely on sound for their communication, feeding and orientation can be harmed by this sound pollution. 

Research has shown continuous anthropogenic noise in the ocean was primarily generated by shipping and has caused both short and long-term negative consequences on marine life, especially marine mammals 

Continuous noise on board ships can harm human health. In 2012, IMO adopted a regulation in the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) to require vessels to be constructed to reduce on-board noise and protect personnel from noise according to the Code on noise levels on board ships.  

Integration of advanced technologies such as Sinay’s  Aerial Acoustics Module and Underwater Acoustics can monitor noise pollution in real-time to avoid environmental impacts. These tools help companies make fast and accurate decisions about how activities affect the environment to ensure that the surrounding community and marine life remain safe. 

3. Vessel Discharges

vessel discharges

Despite the overall decrease in the number of accidental oil spills, there is still the occurrence of oil spills at irregular intervals. Studies show that large accidental oil spills account for about 10–15% of all oil that enters the ocean worldwide every year. 

A ships’ water discharges can also be problematic for marine life and the environment. Cargo ships discharge bilge water, black water, grey water, etc. Grey water comes from the ships’ accommodation areas, including the sink, shower, laundry, and galley. Black water contains urine and faeces, and oily bilge water. These discharges can decrease water quality, negatively impact marine environments, and cause health risks to the public. However, they are regulated through the Commercial Vessel Discharge Standards(EPA) 

Also, innovative tools like the Water Quality Monitoring & Compliance Manager created by Sinay can be used to monitor all types of water quality indicators, including parameters for temperature, salinity, total microalgae content, oxygen levels, and the quantity of organic matter. 

The water quality monitoring and compliance managers collect water quality data from sensors using Wi-Fi, radio signals, 4G, and 5G. It uses different format to connect many types of sensors and transmit the data at an ideal frequency, enabling the data to be accessible from your dashboard.  

Your environmental monitoring at your fingertips!

Optimize your environmental monitoring, become smarter and more sustainable with a unified system that gathers all your environmental sensors & data in one place.

Group of adults dolphins and younger dolphins

4. Port Congestion

How to solve port congestion

Port congestion is a major challenge faced by many ports globally, including the ports of Los Angeles in the United States, Asia ports, London, and other major seaports. Port Congestion is a situation where a marine vessel arriving at a port is unable to berth and is required to wait outside at anchorage for a berth to become available. Many container ships wait a long time, even up to two weeks, to dock at berth.   

Sippers are expected to adhere to Commercial Vessel Discharge Standards. Also, more digitalization investments should be made in the maritime sector. If ports and shippers could track barges and had a precise estimated time of arrival (ETA) for vessels, then the increasing amount of waiting time would be better handled.  

Shippers and Ports can monitor the ship’s estimated time of arrival with the Sinay’s Estimated Time of Arrival Module. This tool uses Artificial Intelligence algorithms to update a ship’s estimated time of arrival. With included ship tracking feature, ports can better schedule crews, resources, and the berthing of vessels to be as efficient as possible. With a precise real-time ETA, shippers can also choose which port is best for them regarding current traffic conditions.  

5. Marine Species Invasion

Group of adults dolphins and younger dolphins

A ship’s ballast water is one of the major ways of introducing non-indigenous marine species. Ballast water is held in ballast tanks and cargo holds of ships to provide stability and manoeuvrability during a voyage when vessels are not carrying heavy enough cargo or not carrying any cargo at all.  

Usually, ballast water is carried in ballast tanks when a ship has delivered cargo to a port and departs with less or no cargo. It is then transported and released at the next port-of-call, where the ship picks up more cargo. The release of ballast water introduces non-native organisms, bio invaders and exotic species into the environment.

The IMO and EPA regulate ballast water discharge to prevent alien species into coastal areas through Implementing the Ballast Water Management Convention 

Conclusion about Environmental Impacts Related To Shipping

These five environmental impacts related to shipping are being taken seriously globally, but they are only a sample of a greater overarching story. However, with IMO’s 2020 and 2050 strategies, it is expected that environmental problems caused by the shipping industry will drastically decline over the next 30 years, and shipping will be more cost-effective across the board.  

Sinay is fighting the impact by addressing these concerns with intelligent software that can help decrease air pollution, vessel discharges, invasive species, port congestion, etc. Shipping companies worldwide can mitigate the effects of shipping on the environment through the use of the right data, support, and management. 

Contact Sinay today for a demo 

Let’s make your business and the shipping industry smarter and more sustainable, together. 


Shipping has shares of responsability for ai pollution, noise pollution, vessel discharges, port congestion and marine species invasion. 

Yes! AI and intelligent software helps reduce climate change thanks to its quick processing of advances data, the right use of Big Data, leading to predictability, forecasting, and real-time problem-solving. 

Different ways are possible to reduce CO2 emissions: Route planning optimization, transition to renewables and cleaner sources of fuel, efficient port operations, slow steaming, energy on board saving, battery technology adoption, and much more. 

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