Authorities Considering Setting a Ship “Speed Limit” to Reduce Emissions

According to, a new study indicates that reducing ship speeds, including those of cruise ships, by 20% could have significant benefits for the environment. 

When ships travel more slowly, they tend to emit less pollution, even when taking the increased travel time into account. The benefits of the speed reductions could be far-ranging, from reducing greenhouse gas production to reducing emissions of pollution, like black carbon and nitrogen oxides, which is immediately dangerous to humans. The reduction could also significantly reduce underwater noise, which can disrupt marine habitats, by two thirds and reduce the chances that cruise ships will collide with whales by nearly 80%.

Ships are a major part of the world’s economy. The BBC report says that, by volume, 80% of the world’s goods are shipped by sea. But the shipping comes with a cost. Ships emit roughly 3% of all greenhouse gases, about the same amount emitted by Germany. As an example of just how polluting large ships can be, a recent report indicated that a cruise ship generates up to 1 million times more pollution than is generated by an average passenger vehicle. 

World leaders seem to be taking the ship-speed idea seriously. The BBC report says that UN negotiators will meet in London this week to discuss proposals that would limit cruise ship speeds.