Some Travelling Notes

Travel Log. January 4th.

Arriving in Travemünde Skandenavienkai (Scandinavian Quay) by train, I am one of only four people who disembarks. The exit is onto a road, unlit, unsignposted. Luckily two of the four disembarquees are some locals who send me through the tunnel beneath the railway to wait for a bus outside the harbour. This asking carries on: where to get off the bus, where to go, where to wait. This is not a pathway much trodden, not a well signposted mass tourism system. The information screen showing departures has no indication that our vessel even exists and I am left wondering whether I have missed the shuttle bus. But that cannot be, I am far too early. A cashier at the last bottle shop reassures me that the screen in confusing so I bide my time and, an hour or so later, the promised shuttle arrives and six people embark without cars, trucks or buses.

Obviously travelling by ferry in the middle of winter is not everyone’s cup of tea.

This journey is being made, in part, as a prelude to longer transiencies that will take place in February as part of the Changing Weathers project. Looking at some of the realities and assumptions of travel and transport, what is done, how it is done. This journey, from Brussels to Helsinki, could have been done with various combinations of flights for a touch less cost and a lot less time. It would have been around a day of travel, two or three flights, several security checks and a tired body hitting a bed somewhere at the end. Instead the day has been a sequence of 5 train rides, a bus and a shuttle to get on this ferry. I will sleep two nights on board before arriving in Helsinki. This is a longer journey, but not necessarily a worse one.

The obvious other travel method would have been quicker. But it would probably not have involved some of the sights. I will hopefully sleep better. A carbon and other pollutions calculation follow below. The price is slightly higher, 110 Euro for a flight, 290 for the train-ferry combination. We have to calculate a few bits.
Ferry CO2 cost: “a figure of 22.54 grams of CO2 per passenger kilometre for ferry foot passengers.” from Seat 61. Travemünde to Helsinki is 610 nm which is 1129 km, so 25447 grammes, i.e. 25.4 kg. Then 700km of train travel (estimated from Google maps) I get 10 kg from here, for a sum of around 35kg.
The flight from Brussels to Riga and then Helsinki has 500 kg CO2 as calculated herehere we get  423 kg and here,  220 kg. So the comparison is 35 kg CO2 slowly on the surface versus somewhere between 220 and 500 kg for flying, so between one 6th and one 15th. The surface “wins” quite clearly.


The exhaust from this smokestack is not only dark and dirty, but also yellow: it seems there might be some sulphur in there.

Other emissions, such as sulphur and nitrogen compounds, are more complex. In general, people are interested in the SO2 emissions, which cause acid rain and other problems from sulphur in fuels, and the NOx emissions, the collection of various nitrogen oxides, which are poisons that are created by the motor from atmospheric nitrogen. These also cause eutrophication is coastal areas and other effects. For the plane and train, we are basing these calculations upon the tables in page 24 of this report. For the ferry our calulations are based upon the calculator and facts from Finnlines, that the sulphur content of fuel in a Sulphur Emission Control Area (SECA), of which the Baltic is one, is 0.1%.

Plane 2200-6300g 67-187 g
Train 240g 54g
Ferry 23g 834g

This makes a comparison interesting again. The surface route wins again with 263g of SO2 versus the flight. But NOx emissions from the ferry remain a problem, dwarfing the emissions of a train or the plane. This is apparently all due to the motor technologies used and could be counteracted, but perhaps not eradicated, by shipowners investments.

The emissions and other side effects of travel and transport form a basis for the work we are doing in Changing Weathers. We have heard of air pollution levels on the North Sea coast that are worse than the industrial centers of Germany, we have seen evidence of the effects of pollutants in cargo ship exhaust. We will carry on to share our learning and experiences.

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