Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres

A historical reconstruction of ships' fuel consumption and emissions



[1] Shipping activity has increased considerably over the last century and currently represents a significant contribution to the global emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases. Despite this, information about the historical development of fuel consumption and emissions is generally limited, with little data published pre-1950 and large deviations reported for estimates covering the last 3 decades. To better understand the historical development in ship emissions and the uncertainties associated with the estimates, we present fuel-based CO2 and SO2 emission inventories from 1925 up to 2002 and activity-based estimates from 1970 up to 2000. The global CO2 emissions from ships in 1925 have been estimated to 229 Tg (CO2), growing to about 634 Tg (CO2) in 2002. The corresponding SO2 emissions are about 2.5 Tg (SO2) and 8.5 Tg (SO2), respectively. Our activity-based estimates of fuel consumption from 1970 to 2000, covering all oceangoing civil ships above or equal to 100 gross tonnage (GT), are lower compared to previous activity-based studies. We have applied a more detailed model approach, which includes variation in the demand for sea transport, as well as operational and technological changes of the past. This study concludes that the main reason for the large deviations found in reported inventories is the applied number of days at sea. Moreover, our modeling indicates that the ship size and the degree of utilization of the fleet, combined with the shift to diesel engines, have been the major factors determining yearly fuel consumption. Interestingly, the model results from around 1973 suggest that the fleet growth is not necessarily followed by increased fuel consumption, as technical and operational characteristics have changed. Results from this study indicate that reported sales over the last 3 decades seems not to be significantly underreported as previous simplified activity-based studies have suggested. The results confirm our previously reported modeling estimates for year 2000. Previous activity-based studies have not considered ships less than 100 GT (e.g., today some 1.3 million fishing vessels), and we suggest that this fleet could account for an important part of the total fuel consumption (∼10%).