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World Maritime Day Focuses on Fuel Efficiency and Climate Change

The United States, including the Great Lakes ports of Duluth, Minn., and Superior, Wisc., will celebrate the World Maritime Day Parallel Event on October 16. New York City is spearheading this year's celebration, which is hosted by a different country each year and is sponsored by the International Maritime Organization (IMO); this is the U.S.'s year to showcase the event. The purpose is to focus attention on the importance of shipping safety, maritime security, and the marine environment, with an emphasis on a particular aspect of IMO's work. The theme this year is climate change.

Duluth is taking this opportunity to get the word out about the advantages of maritime transportation – particularly its lower carbon footprint – and how freight transportation choices will have major impacts on our ability to influence global warming trends.

"The Great Lakes are vulnerable to even small changes in temperature and water levels, and the impacts of global warming could be problematic here long before effects are felt on our sea coasts," said Dale Bergeron, maritime extension educator for Minnesota Sea Grant. "We need to recognize the inherent advantages of maritime transportation in moving heavy cargoes long distances. Shipping goods by water is the most fuel-efficient form of transportation per-ton-mile moved."

For example, the bulk cargo capacity of one 1,000-foot lake carrier equals that of approximately 700 rail cars or 3,000 large semi-trucks, which would stretch approximately 300 miles in a single lane caravan moving down the highway. Transporting more cargo by ship could significantly decrease our Great Lakes carbon footprint, reduce road congestion and accidents, and cut down on the related costs of land-based transportation like roadways, bridges, and rail facilities.

"Shipping is more than twice as fuel efficient as rail, and almost ten times as efficient as trucking," said Bergeron. "We need to understand all the impacts and costs related to our transportation systems if we are going to make wise choices to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate climate change."

World Maritime Day is a way to support both shipping and a greener environment.

"The maritime community is not just an industry, it is run by people like you and me, who have families, and who care about the environment and who want to make a contribution," said Bergeron. "Understanding the complex issues related to our transportation choices enables us to make better freight transportation decisions, and helps focus our nation’s energy policy."

In addition to the parallel event in New York City, ports like Duluth-Superior are hosting events calling attention to shipping safety and efficiency, plus maritime transportation’s role in helping to address climate change. For more information on the 2009 World Maritime Day, go to: www.seagrant.umn.edu/maritime/.

Posted on October 8, 2009

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