Shipping and the environment
Book chapter, 2016
Humans have always had a close relationship with the aquatic environment, including the early use of the sea for food harvesting and communication. Today, the sea is an important component of the transportation system, with large amounts of cargo and passengers. This chapter provides a short introduction to ships and shipping, focussing primarily on commercial ships; nonetheless, many of the emissions, impacts and measures discussed throughout this book are common to other sectors, such as leisure, research and fishing. This chapter also introduces the environmental impacts related to ship operations. Ship transportation has increased tremendously since the industrial revolution, which has resulted in increased emissions due to shipping and increased stresses on the environment. However, this trend is not only related to shipping. Currently, there are several warning signs that we are not taking care of the Earth and its ecosystem in a sustainable manner, that the Earth's ecosystems are degrading and that natural capital is being exploited, e.g., by the burning of fossil fuels. The marine industry is a component of our society; similar to all industry sectors, it contributes to unsustainable patterns in our society. Although the marine industry is a contributor to these problems, it can also be part of the solution, yet several challenges must be addressed. Sustainability and related concepts, such as ecosystem services, planetary boundaries and resilience thinking, could be used as guidance in addressing these challenges. Humans have always had a close relationship with the aquatic environment. Indeed, a scientific discussion debates whether the first humans evolved in a dry land environment, on the savannah, or in shallow water environments (as the "water man" or "aquatic ape") . With respect to environmental awareness, the sea has come into focus relatively late compared with other natural areas. Independent of this observation, the sea has served as an important transportation route and a source of food and recreation throughout history. In a world where more than 70 % of the surface is covered by oceans, our interaction with and dependence on the sea in numerous aspects is obvious.