Climate activists rally near nation’s largest ports to call out Amazon’s ship pollution

Tuesday August 31, 2021

From mock shipping container stunt in Seattle to climate justice event in Long Beach, Ship It Zero coalition highlights growing consumer demand for zero-emissions cargo shipping

SEATTLE, WA — Climate activists with the Ship It Zero coalition gathered near the nation’s largest ports today, Tuesday, August 31, as part of two separate events demanding that retail giant Amazon transitions to zero-emissions cargo shipping vessels.

In Seattle, the home of the world’s largest e-commerce company, activists carried a mock shipping container through downtown Seattle and delivered it to Amazon’s headquarters alongside a petition scroll signed by nearly 20,00 people. See photos & video.

In Long Beach, against a backdrop of a long line of heavily polluting cargo ships and hazy ocean smog, a press conference hosted by advocacy groups and community members near the largest port complex in the nation addressed how ocean shipping pollutes port communities with toxic chemicals that contribute to high rates of asthma, cancer, and premature death. Community groups also called on Executive Directors of the San Pedro Ports, Gene Seroka and Mario Cordero, to end ship pollution. Watch the livestream.

Led by environmental advocacy groups Stand.earth and Pacific Environment, the Ship It Zero coalition is calling on some of the nation’s largest maritime importers — including Amazon, Target, IKEA, and Walmart — to transition to 100% zero-emissions cargo shipping vessels by 2030. This ​​goal will ensure the shipping industry does its fair share in helping to keep global warming under 1.5 degrees Celsius, the target scientists say is needed to avoid the worst consequences of the climate crisis.

“In the face of record profits, major retailers and their shipping companies have no excuse to not invest in cleaner ways of doing business,” said Gary Cook, Global Climate Campaigns Director at Stand.earth. “Every year they stall, we miss the ever-narrowing window to address the climate crisis and ensure a livable planet. And poorer communities, especially those of color, will remain saddled with the high costs of air pollution. It's time for retail shipping giants like Amazon to stop moving their products on fossil-fueled ships and commit to 100 percent zero-emissions shipping by 2030.”

“San Pedro Bay Port complex communities experience eight years lower life expectancy than the Los Angeles County average, in no small part due to heavily polluting cargo ships. In addition, fossil-fueled ships contribute to climate change, with global warming projected to reach up to 10°F by 2100” said Daniel Hamidi, Ship It Zero Campaign Lead with Pacific Environment. “We call on Amazon to lead the way — not in space exploration, but in immediately protecting environmental health and justice.” 

“As the home of the busiest seaport in the Western Hemisphere, it is imperative that Los Angeles lead the way in transitioning to 100% zero-emission shipping, much as we’re doing with transitioning to 100% zero-emission vehicles. I am proud to support Ship It Zero in their campaign to combat hazardous pollutants and ensure we are doing everything in our power to create healthy, breathable port communities,” said Nithya Raman, Los Angeles City Councilmember. 

ABOUT SHIP IT ZERO’S “SHADY SHIPS” REPORT

Released in July 2021, Ship It Zero’s Shady Ships report revealed that just 15 companies are responsible for emitting millions of tons of pollution from importing their goods into the United States on fossil-fueled cargo ships. It is the first study to quantify the environmental and public health impacts from some of the biggest American retailers’ reliance on overseas manufacturing and fossil-fueled, transoceanic shipping. 

Collectively, the top importers of U.S. goods are responsible for emitting as much sulfur oxide, nitrous oxide, and particulate matter as tens of millions of U.S. vehicles every year. These emissions are some of the most dangerous and deadly types of air pollutants, contributing to asthma, cancer, and premature death, and increasing the mortality risk from respiratory-based illnesses like COVID-19. 

The market for transoceanic cargo shipping has grown over the past several decades, and the pandemic accelerated the trend toward shipping goods bought online. Today, over 50,000 cargo ships carry around 80 percent of global trade, and ocean-going cargo volumes are projected to grow by as much as 130 percent by 2050. Every single cargo ship in operation right now runs on fossil fuels.

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Media contact: Virginia Cleaveland, Communications Manager, media@stand.earth, +1 510 858 9902 (Pacific Time)