The impact of shipping emissions on air pollution in the greater North Sea region – Part 1: Current emissions and concentrations


The North Sea is one of the areas with the highest ship traffic densities worldwide. At any time, about 3000 ships are sailing its waterways. Previous scientific publications have shown that ships contribute significantly to atmospheric concentrations of NOx, particulate matter and ozone. Especially in the case of particulate matter and ozone, this influence can even be seen in regions far away from the main shipping routes. In order to quantify the effects of North Sea shipping on air quality in its bordering states, it is essential to determine the emissions from shipping as accurately as possible. Within Interreg IVb project Clean North Sea Shipping (CNSS), a bottom-up approach was developed and used to thoroughly compile such an emission inventory for 2011 that served as the base year for the current emission situation. The innovative aspect of this approach was to use load-dependent functions to calculate emissions from the ships' current activities instead of averaged emission factors for the entire range of the engine loads. These functions were applied to ship activities that were derived from hourly records of Automatic Identification System signals together with a database containing the engine characteristics of the vessels that traveled the North Sea in 2011. The emission model yielded ship emissions among others of NOx and SO2 at high temporal and spatial resolution that were subsequently used in a chemistry transport model in order to simulate the impact of the emissions on pollutant concentration levels. The total emissions of nitrogen reached 540 Gg and those of sulfur oxides 123 Gg within the North Sea – including the adjacent western part of the Baltic Sea until 5° W. This was about twice as much of those of a medium-sized industrialized European state like the Netherlands. The relative contribution of ships to, for example, NO2 concentration levels ashore close to the sea can reach up to 25 % in summer and 15 % in winter. Some hundred kilometers away from the sea, the contribution was about 6 % in summer and 4 % in winter. The relative contribution of the secondary pollutant NO3− was found to reach 20 % in summer and 6 % in winter even far from the shore.
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