Concern Rises Over Air Pollution from Ships

Tough regulations and technological advances have made power plants, cars, and other common sources of air pollution cleaner over past decades, and as they get cleaner another common source comes into sharper relief: ships. In some port cities like Los Angeles, ships — including oil tankers, container ships, and cruise ships — create more pollution than any other single source. Vickie Patton of Environmental Defense says that massive container ships and car carriers “are essentially floating smokestacks.” The U.S. EPA recently set emissions standards for boats and ships, but many local air-pollution officials and enviros say they don’t go far enough. An international treaty set to go into effect in 2005 would restrict emissions from foreign-owned ships, but the U.S. Senate has not approved it, so it can’t be enforced in U.S. waters — and regardless, it will apply only to new ships, not the sulfur-belching older ones. Meanwhile, shipping traffic to and from the U.S. is expected to double by 2020.