• Jacob Bourne

Documentary ‘Black Trail’ Exposes Global Shipping Industry’s High Toll on Climate

Modern life has relied on the steady trade of goods for quite some time. Ships traversing the Earth’s waters account for about 90% of global trade. Yet, these ships are powered by some of the dirtiest, polluting fuels available, a new documentary “Black Trail” found.

Credit: Pexels/Julius Silver

For decades, cruise ships and freighters have relied on heavy fuel oil, an unrefined byproduct of gas and diesel production. It’s a cheap fuel that would otherwise be discarded or used in tar for roadways. It’s also a dirty fuel that produces black carbon, contributing to the loss of the Arctic’s albedo effect, exacerbating warming temperatures.

Cheap fuel equals cheap shipping costs, which equals cheap goods for consumers.

In 2020, the International Maritime Organization, a 174-member state body of the United Nations, passed a regulation limiting the amount of sulfur used in ship fuel to improve air quality. However, “Black Trail” documentary makers assert that this has resulted in ships using fuels producing higher ultra-fine particulates and black carbon, and that the IMO isn’t demanding the change that needs to happen in the industry.

A 2020 study by the IMO showed that between 2012 and 2018, greenhouse gas emissions from global shipping increased by 10%, with black carbon and methane emissions growing even more.

As renewable energy technologies advance for many sectors, including the transportation sector, the outdated technology used in ships resulting in these emissions stands out as an area where progress is needed.

Watch “Black Trail” by journalists from The Black Sea and Expresso, Reporters United (Greece), RTS (Switzerland), VG (Norway), co-produced by SIC TV (Portugal) and supported by research from Finance Uncovered (UK).


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