The observations in Peter French’s article ‘Sea change’ (Viewpoint, January 14) provide some hope of directly lessening port pollutants and indirectly those from other transportation venues. Yet ports cause serious environmental damage beyond air pollution.
Much of our current coastal erosion and the consequent loss of coastal habitats are directly attributable to navigational dredging, with its deep canyons causing massive losses of our coastlines and the many varied habitats these sustain.
Dredging accelerates and redirects currents, devouring coastal beaches, wetlands and threatening coastal freshwater supplies. Artificial offshore canyons also deepen near-shore areas, whose shallowness once reduced the energy of storms striking our coastlines.
Offshore aggregate mining for beach ‘nourishment’ and traditionally engineered ‘protection’ structures increase this problem. Sea-level rise and increasing storm intensities further hinder the coastlines’ natural ability to rebound.
The billions of dollars being spent to dredge our coastal channels could go to build deep-water offshore trans-shipments facilities. There, with the use of robots, containers could be transferred to smaller coastal vessels. This would allow deep dredging wounds to heal, lessening the erosion they cause.
Further, the energy needs of such artificial ports might be supplied by non-polluting sea currents or wind, while the air pollution caused by boats in port areas would stay well offshore. Security threats, now seemingly even more urgent than the environmental one, also can remain offshore.
We are losing our shorelines and must adopt new methods quickly to mitigate this environmental catastrophe. Some of these are well considered on the UK’s MARINET/Friends of the Earth site (http://www.marinet.org.uk/). We must recognise all the hazards posed by ports and related activities.
Peter French is wise in seeking to have engineers become more creative. They must seek to implement innovative solutions to our growing environmental problems of whatever source.
Unfortunately, in my experience in coastal environmental issues, it is often the engineers who are the impediment to such solutions, choosing immediate profit over long-term environmental health.
The observations in Peter French’s article ‘Sea change’ provide some hope of directly lessening port pollutants and indirectly those from other transportation venues.