The latest episode in the American Chemical Society’s (ACS’) award-winning Global Challenges/Chemistry Solutions podcast series reports that putting a speed limit on cargo ships as they sail near ports and coastlines could cut their emission of air pollutants by up to 70 percent, reducing the impact of marine shipping on Earth’s climate and human health.

Based on a report by David R. Cocker III, Ph.D., and colleagues in ACS’ journal Environmental Science & Technology, the new podcast is available without charge at iTunes and from

In the new episode, Cocker explains that marine shipping is the most efficient form of transporting goods, with more than 100,000 ships carrying 90 percent of the world’s cargo. However, engines on these vessels burn low-grade oil that produces large amounts of air pollution. Because fuel consumption and smokestack emissions increase exponentially with speed, the authors explored how speed limits could reduce pollution.

The researchers found that slowing container ships to about 14 miles per hour (mph) reduced emissions of carbon dioxide (the main greenhouse gas) by about 60 percent and nitrogen oxides by 55 percent compared to emissions at traditional cruising speeds of 25-29 mph. Soot emissions fell by almost 70 percent.

They suggest that imposing these speed limits on vessels near ports and coastlines could significantly reduce their pollution and protect the health of people living in those areas.

Get more stuff like this
in your inbox

Subscribe to our mailing list and get interesting stuff and updates to your email inbox.