Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Worldwide ship traffic up 300 percent since 1992

18.11.2014

New satellite data reveals whopping boost in shipping

Maritime traffic on the world’s oceans has increased four-fold over the past 20 years, likely causing more water, air and noise pollution on the open seas, according to a new study quantifying global ship traffic.


A new study shows that global ship traffic has increased four-fold over the past 20 years, likely causing more water, air and noise pollution on the open seas.

Credit: NOAA


Global shipping routes crisscross the world’s oceans in this map of shipping lanes derived from a 2008 study of the human impact on marine ecosystems. Maritime traffic along these lanes is also a major source of noise pollution, which is increasingly considered harmful to marine mammals.

Credit: Grolltech

The research used satellite data to estimate the number of vessels on the ocean every year between 1992 and 2012. The number of ships traversing the oceans grew by 60 percent between 1992 and 2002. Shipping traffic grew even faster during the second decade of the study, peaking at rate of increase of 10 percent per year in 2011.

Traffic went up in every ocean during the 20 years of the study, except off the coast of Somalia, where increasing piracy has almost completely halted commercial shipping since 2006. In the Indian Ocean, where the world’s busiest shipping lanes are located, ship traffic grew by more than 300 percent over the 20-year period, according to the research.

Ships powered by fossil fuels dump oil, fuel and waste into the water and pump exhaust into the air. Shipping is also a major source of noise pollution, which is increasingly considered potentially harmful to marine mammals, said Jean Tournadre, a geophysicist at Ifremer, the French Institute for the Exploitation of the Sea in Plouzane, and the study author.

“I found it quite worrisome that the ship traffic grew so much, even in very remote regions of the world,” Tournadre said, “especially when we know that they are the major source of pollution [on the open ocean].”

International trade and the sizes of merchant fleets have both enlarged rapidly over the past two decades, explaining the steep rise in ship traffic, the study reports. The new analysis has been accepted for publication in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.

Burgeoning ship traffic has increased the amount of pollution in the atmosphere, particularly above the Sri Lanka-Sumatra-China shipping lane, where the study notes a 50 percent increase in nitrogen dioxide, a common air pollutant, over the 20-year period.

Tournadre said he hopes the new study will increase scientists’ understanding of how human activities are affecting marine ecosystems and improve models of atmospheric pollution in the open ocean.

The new dataset will provide scientists with invaluable insights into the patterns of ship traffic and the traffic’s effect on the environment, said Batuhan Osmanoglu, a radar systems engineer at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Green Belt, Md., who was not involved in the study.

“The nice thing about this study is that they have a unique dataset, that maybe we’re looking at for the first time,” he said. “Whenever you have a unique dataset you can quite easily learn something new.”

The new study is the first to track ship traffic on a global scale, Tournadre said. Currently, ship traffic is monitored using the Automatic Identification System (AIS). When vessels are near the coast, they use transponders to send out their location information to other ships and base stations on land. However, the AIS system doesn’t work very well when ships are out on the open ocean. Vessels are often out of range of terrestrial base stations or other ships, and few satellites carry the AIS instrumentation necessary to locate vessels from space.

Global shipping routes crisscross the world's oceans. Maritime traffic along these lanes is also a major source of noise pollution, which is increasingly considered harmful to marine mammals. Credit: Grolltech
Global shipping routes crisscross the world’s oceans in this map of shipping lanes derived from a 2008 study of the human impact on marine ecosystems. Maritime traffic along these lanes is also a major source of noise pollution, which is increasingly considered harmful to marine mammals.
Credit: Grolltech

The new method outlined in the study uses altimeters, or instruments that measure altitude, aboard satellites to detect the location of ships at sea, similar to the way these instruments have been used to track icebergs.

The altimeter sends a radar pulse down to Earth from the satellite and constructs an image of the surface based on the time it takes the pulse to bounce back to the instrument and the shape of the pulse when it arrives. The method works similar to throwing a ping pong ball at the ground: if you know the velocity of the ball and the time it takes to bounce back to your hand, then you can calculate how far from the ground you are. The shape of the returning pulse can tell you something about the features on the ground. A smooth target like the ocean will bounce back an expected pulse shape, but if something like an iceberg, island, or ship is present, the shape of the echo will change.

In 2007, Tournadre was poring over hordes of satellite data for signs of icebergs in polar seas, when he noticed an odd shape in the data.

“We had some unconventional data in a region, and careful analysis showed us that it was a lighthouse near shipping lanes,” he said. “As we processed the data over the whole globe, we also detected ships.”

Tournadre found that the altimetry data accurately reproduced known shipping lanes and could be used to estimate the number of vessels on the ocean worldwide. The study used altimetry data from seven different satellites to map ship traffic from 1992 to 2012.

Using satellite data made it possible to calculate ship traffic for the entire globe, whereas AIS records provide relatively limited coverage in both space and time, Tournadre said. The new method also allowed him to look back at two decades of traffic using archived data, and give independent measurements of ship traffic that were not based on the will or capability of ships to transmit their own positions.

However, Tournadre also cautions that some of the growth he has seen in ship traffic could be overestimated because ships, especially container ships, have become larger over the past two decades and possibly easier to detect with altimetry data.

The American Geophysical Union is dedicated to advancing the Earth and space sciences for the benefit of humanity through its scholarly publications, conferences, and outreach programs. AGU is a not-for-profit, professional, scientific organization representing more than 62,000 members in 144 countries. Join our conversation on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other social media channels.

Notes for Journalists

Journalists and public information officers (PIOs) of educational and scientific institutions who have registered with AGU can download a PDF copy of this article by clicking on this link: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/2014GL061786/abstract?campaign=wlytk-41855.5282060185

Or, you may order a copy of the final paper by emailing your request to Kate Wheeling at kwheeling@agu.org. Please provide your name, the name of your publication, and your phone number.

Neither the paper nor this press release is under embargo.
Title
“Anthropogenic pressure on the open ocean: the growth of ship traffic revealed by altimeter data analysis”

Authors:
Jean Tournadre: Laboratoire d’Océanographie Spatiale, IFREMER, Plouzané, France

Contact information for the authors:
Jean Tournadre: jean.tournadre@ifremer.fr


AGU Contact:
Kate Wheeling
+1 (202) 777-7516
kwheeling@agu.org

Kate Wheeling | American Geophysical Union
Further information:
http://news.agu.org/press-release/worldwide-ship-traffic-up-300-percent-since-1992/

More articles from Transportation and Logistics:

nachricht Laser rescue system for serious accidents
29.11.2016 | Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V.

nachricht Bremen University students reach the final at robotics competition with parcel delivery robot
19.10.2016 | BIBA - Bremer Institut für Produktion und Logistik

All articles from Transportation and Logistics >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Significantly more productivity in USP lasers

In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.

Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Simple processing technique could cut cost of organic PV and wearable electronics

06.12.2016 | Materials Sciences

3-D printed kidney phantoms aid nuclear medicine dosing calibration

06.12.2016 | Medical Engineering

Robot on demand: Mobile machining of aircraft components with high precision

06.12.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>