Last March, the whole world saw one of the largest cargo ships in existence – 400 metres long, weighing 265,000 tonnes, loaded with 20,000 shipping containers – get stuck in the Suez canal. For six days, tiny tugs tried to nudge the EverGiven off a sandbar.
Waiting at both ends of the canal were more than 300 cargo ships and tankers, carrying petrol, semiconductors, microchips, scrunchie hair bands, sneakers, hand-held travel steamers, ice-cream-makers, novelty socks and electric milk-frothers. As the global supply chain ground to a halt, we became aware that 90% of everything in our homes – clothes, appliances, food – has, at some point, been transported by sea.
Cargo ships burn some of the dirtiest petrol going, known as bunker. Made from the sludgy leftovers of petrol refining, it is as viscous and black as molasses and full of sulphur; when it burns it gives off carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide and sulphur dioxide. Container ports are consequently wreathed in smog. Shipping accounts for 2%-3% of global carbon emissions, but it also damages the environment in other ways. Ships regularly dump garbage and contaminated bilge water into the ocean, and underwater noise pollution disrupts the life cycles of fish, whales and dolphins. Read on, thanks to The Guardian.