Air pollution at ports increased during the pandemic, study finds

Air pollution at major seaports is likely to have spiked during the Covid-19 pandemic, a new study by researchers at Nanyang Technological University finds. 

The findings serve as a stark contrast to findings from the NASA Earth Observatory which found that the freeze in industrial processes in the pandemic resulted in generally lower air pollution. 

In Singapore, the researchers found that emissions were modelled to have more than doubled (123%) during the pandemic period. 

They increased twofold in Los Angeles (100%) and over a quarter (27%) in Hamburg, Germany. 

Container ships and dry bulk carriers marked the sharpest increase of all total emissions, seeing an average increase of 94% and 142% respectively. 

cargo ships docked at the pier during day

The researchers have said that this increase in emissions is because of the prolonged turnaround time in the ports as longer operational times were needed due to pandemic-related delays. 

Professor Law Wing Keung, Adrian, from NTU’s School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, who led the study, said: ‘Our study presents a review of the ship emission outlook amid the pandemic uncertainty.

‘Lockdown measures and other Covid-19 restrictions on human activity have upended the landscape for the shipping sector and significantly affected the operating patterns of maritime and trade, leading to the computed outcome revealing significant increase in pollutant emissions in the seaports in our study.’

Ms Liu Jiahui, a PhD student and first author of the study, added: ‘Although they typically spend the least time in ports, dry bulk carriers, which are merchant ships designed to transport unpackaged bulk cargo, such as grains, coal, ore, and cement, experienced the biggest increase in pollutant emissions. This is due to a combination of COVID-19 precautions at ports and the increased demand for raw materials due to the resumption of industrial activity in the second half of 2020, which resulted in a spike in dry bulk carriers in ports.’

In related news, Air Quality News investigates the true air pollution cost of our online shopping habits.




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