Climate activists call out Amazon’s ship pollution

Climate activists with the Ship It Zero coalition gathered near major American ports on Tuesday, 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 (pictured) alongside a petition scroll signed by nearly 20,00 people.

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.

In the face of record profits, major retailers and their shipping companies have no excuse to not invest in cleaner ways of doing business

Led by environmental advocacy groups 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.

A study released in July by the two NGOs was the first report to quantify the environmental and public health impacts from some of the biggest American retailers’ reliance on overseas manufacturing and fossil-fuelled, transoceanic shipping.

By cross referencing a comprehensive set of cargo manifests with a dataset on individual ship emissions, researchers were able to estimate the pollution associated with each unit of cargo on shipping routes heading to the US and, for the first time, assign those emissions to retail companies. Walmart topped the list, responsible for 3.7m tons of climate pollution from its shipping practices in 2019, more than an entire coal-fired power plant emits in a year. Target, IKEA, Amazon, and eleven other companies were also investigated (see chart below).

“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 “Every year they stall, we miss the ever-narrowing window to address the climate crisis and ensure a liveable planet.”

“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-fuelled 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, speaking on a day where there were record long queues of containerships waiting for berths to open up at the twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. “We call on Amazon to lead the way — not in space exploration, but in immediately protecting environmental health and justice.”

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.


  1. The zealous protestors are no doubt the beneficiaries of a lot of e-commerce but now seem prepared to kill the goose that laid the golden egg. Some of their numbers are patently wrong or massaged to support their extreme views which they seem to want to inflict on others. There is a whiff of hypocrisy in this.

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