Herald News - UMass Dartmouth professor, Lisbon student team up for academic paper

Herald News - UMass Dartmouth professor, Lisbon student team up for academic paper

By Grant Welker

DARTMOUTH — A University of Massachusetts Dartmouth public policy professor and a student from Portugal who never met have authored a peer-reviewed article on how “short-sighted” policies of commercial sea shipping harm the environment.

Professor Chad McGuire and graduate student Helen Perivier knew each other from UMass Dartmouth’s graduate online environmental policy certificate program and coordinated on the article exclusively online. It will be published in the February issue of the International Journal of Sustainable Development.

The online collaboration shows how learning can now connect teachers and students who are separated by great distances, said Jennifer Brady, the associate vice president for business development at the university’s virtual learning program, called UMassOnline.

Perivier, who lives in Lisbon, has been working with nonprofits involved with the impacts of what is known as “foreign flagging” — when ship owners chose ports with the lowest environmental and labor costs. Such policies, she says in the article, ignore environmental and social justice. Maritime shipping is bigger than might be imagined, too: it creates more greenhouse gas emissions than the aviation industry, both commercial and recreational.

What happens to the ships after the end of their useful life harms the environment, too, McGuire and Perivier say. The process is called shipbreaking, and it involves dismantling ships and the release of asbestos, oil and other chemicals into the ocean.

Foreign flagging, however, is the main target of the article. “Environmental laws, both domestic and international, are being skirted through an open registry system,” the article says, “allowing ship owners to shop for a flag state with little to no environmental standards or enforcement.” Panama, Liberia and the Marshall Islands, for example, have three of the highest rates of vessel owners.

Foreign flagging allows a ship owner to register a vessel in a nation where environmental regulations are few or very lax, according to the research. Lower regulations offer an incentive for owners because they allow for cheaper shipping, McGuire and Perivier say. The authors call it lower prices “subsidized through environmental degradation.”

McGuire and Perivier outline suggestions for overhauling shipping regulations: restrict registration, or flagging, to an owner’s home country, generally limiting ownership to developed countries; enact stricter environmental standards; and develop a willingness among consumers for greater costs as a result.

Date: 12/29/10