When we think of air pollution, chances are we picture the exhausts on our cars, the smokestacks of a coal-burning power plant, or the smoke released by manufacturing facilities. However, as the Guardian points out, it’s shipping that’s responsible for between 18 and 30 percent of all the world’s nitrogen pollution. It’s also responsible for 9 percent of the global sulphur-oxide pollution.

On the one hand, that is clearly a huge problem in terms of fighting global warming and trying to cut down on the pollution we put into the environment. On the other hand, shipping is a global industry, and it’s one we need to keep the lifeblood of our economies flowing. But what’s the solution, then? Is there a middle ground between maintaining an industry that does so much harm to the environment, and going back to the days of sailcloth and wooden ships?

Some Potential Solutions

There are a lot of businesses that have been trying to find solutions to the problem of ship pollution. And many of these endeavours show serious promise that, if they can be harnessed, could change the world of goods shipping as we know it.

One example is a project being undertaken by the Japanese Company Eco Marine Power. This project involves the use of rigid sails being placed on a vessel, and those sails will be covered with solar panels. These sails will help provide propulsion assistance, as well as the electricity to handle all the loading and unloading operations the ship will undergo. While the project is currently in the planning stage, the company hopes to have a prototype ship and route selected in the future to test the viability of these bulk transport ships and to see just how much energy and pollution they might save if implemented. More on this at CleanTechnica.

While Eco Marine Power’s plan is certainly proactive, it’s far from the first attempt for shipping companies to try to cut down on their pollution, as well as the amount of energy their vessels use to get from Point A to Point B. As far back as 2014, the U.S. Navy announced that it had found a way to create liquid fuel from the surrounding carbon dioxide and hydrogen in seawater using a catalytic converter. The success of this technology would mean ships could power themselves while at sea, particularly if the converters were powered by green energy generated from wind or solar power. While the process was proven possible, it wasn’t likely to be commercially viable for a decade or more, according to Discover Magazine.

In addition to attempts to switch to pollution-neutral technologies, though, many companies have tried to make smaller changes whose impacts will still be felt. Using more fuel-efficient engines, cyclonic exhaust systems, or even opting to use biodiesel and other green fuels are all steps many shipping companies can take without investing in new fleets of expensive, green ships.

The Future Comes In Starts And Jerks

When you look at a timeline of history, all you see are the specific start and end dates. A long line of unbroken cause-and-effect that led to where you are today. However, what a lot of people forget is that new technologies, and big solutions, don’t happen overnight. While they might be discovered in a single moment, refining them, and getting these solutions adopted on the wider market, takes time. Not only that, but that adoption often takes years, along with particular benefits, before the new becomes the standard.

So, while we don’t have the answer to how shipping is going to go green, it’s possible the seeds of that answer have already been planted. They’re just getting ready to grow.

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