The maritime impact of shipping is as costly as its climate impact

Shipping emissions in the Baltic Sea are estimated to cost SEK 30 billion a year. The damage costs due to impacts that of eutrophication are in the same range as closts associated with reduced air quality and climate change.
This according to a new study from Chalmers and IVL.


Shipping is an activity responsible for a range of different pressures affecting the marine environment, air quality and human welfare. The methodology on how ship emissions impact air quality and human health are comparatively well established and used in cost-benefit analysis of policy proposals. However, the knowledge base is not the same for impacts on the marine environment and a coherent environmental and socio-economic impact assessment of shipping has not yet been made. Not until now.

“In the past, there have been so-called willingness to pay studies where people have been asked how much they are willing to pays to reduce the risk of dying prematurely. In this project, we have connected the marine environment to this. We have used studies where people in countries around the Baltic Sea have answered the question of what they are willing to pay for a better marine environment”, says Erik Ytreberg at Chalmers.

So how big is the contribution from shipping? The results for the Baltic Sea case showed the total annual damage costs of Baltic Sea shipping to be SEK 30 billion). Of these, contributions to eutrophication, climate impact and air impact account for approximately SEK 8 billion each, while environmental toxins from boat bottom paints and other items account for SEK 6 billion.

"What is interesting is that the marine impact is in the same order of magnitude as the impact on climate and air quality. It is the latter two that have driven the policy work forward within the IMO on how to regulate shipping emissions. Now we can also scientifically highlight that the impact on the marine environment is an equally large element."

After analyzing shipping in the Baltic Sea, Erik Ytreberg and his colleagues would like to see the concept developed in order to be able to take a closer look at European shipping in other sea areas.

"Elsewhere, the challenges may look different. The Mediterranean and the Atlantic, for example, do not have the same eutrophication problems as the Baltic Sea. There is also a lot of shipping that goes in and out of the Baltic Sea and it would be interesting to follow the whole route", says Erik Ytreberg.

The article Valuating environmental impacts from ship emissions - The marine perspective has been written by Erik Ytreberg, Stefan Åström and Erik Fridell. It has been published in the Journal of Environmental Management.