The transportation industry may have gotten involved in pollution reduction later than most industries, and though the transition has been difficult, carriers and shippers no longer doubt the need for clean-air regulations.
“The debate is over. Temperatures are rising. The polar ice cap is melting. Glaciers are retreating,” Bob Wade, corporate manager for environmental, hazmat and safety at Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., told this month’s 10th Annual Journal of Commerce Trans-Pacific Maritime Conference in Long Beach, Calif.
But ocean carriers also are making clear that global uniformity is a major goal for environmental regulations. Ship lines can operate in as many as 200 countries, and one-size-fits-all pollution rules don’t work. Ports and terminals are stationary, and each region is unique.
The carbon footprint of shippers with extended supply chains is generated on land and sea and extends back to the country where they source their products.
Each segment of the transportation industry wants to do the right thing, but each side is developing its own strategy for complying with environmental mandates. Shippers and carriers said at the meeting, held in a region making aggressive strides to combat pollution, that they want to work with state, national and international regulatory agencies to ensure pollution-reduction measures are practical, effective and equitable.
Reducing harmful emissions from ocean vessels is a case in point. Ocean transportation accounts for 2.7 percent of global carbon emissions, while domestic road transportation accounts for about 21 percent, said Christopher Koch, president and CEO of the World Shipping Council.
In United Nations-sponsored forums, shipping lines are being told they should reduce carbon emissions by 20 percent, but authorities hesitate to set standards for domestic transportation even though vehicles contribute almost 10 times as much to global warming. “Don’t treat shipping less favorably than other industries,” Koch said.
The World Shipping Council supports efforts by the International Maritime Organization to reduce traditional pollutants, known as health-risk emissions, including nitrogen oxide, sulfur oxide and particulate matter. The IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee in 2008 approved amendments to the regime known as Marpol Annex VI to phase in use of low-sulfur fuel on vessels. The previous cap of 4.5 percent sulfur content in bunker fuel will be ratcheted down over the next decade to 0.5 percent in 2020.
The WSC has gone further by supporting a proposed U.S.-Canada North American emissions control area under the auspices of the IMO. The proposal sounds tough because it will require vessel operators within 200 miles of the coast to switch to low-sulfur fuel, which costs twice as much as traditional bunker. Nevertheless, the council supports the emissions control area because the regulations will be uniform continent-wide.
This highlights the seeming contradiction of a shipping industry opposing less-stringent state regulations, such as those mandated by the California Air Resources Board, in favor of stricter, global regulations.
The IMO has made great strides in regulating health-risk emissions. Scientific study of the diesel pollutants has been extensive, and health agencies everywhere agree that such pollutants result in significantly higher rates of respiratory diseases and cancer.
While health-risk pollutants are highly localized but easy to understand, carbon emissions have a global impact, and the science is relatively new, so global warming is more difficult to understand. Achieving international consensus on reducing carbon emissions escaped even the U.N. conference on global warming in December in Copenhagen.
Nevertheless, with reducing carbon emissions a growing goal worldwide, Koch said the World Shipping Council believes the IMO is the appropriate forum to develop regulations affecting the container shipping industry.
Problems in regions such as Southern California that do not comply with federal clean-air standards differ from those in compliant regions such as the Pacific Northwest. Therefore, the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, responding to local regulations, have developed a clean-air action plan that calls for reducing overall pollution from vessels, marine terminal equipment, trucks, trains and harbor craft by 45 percent in an incredibly short time-frame of five years. Truck emissions must decline by 80 percent.
To accomplish the goals, the Southern California ports have turned to a combination of fees, financial incentives, the mandatory and rapid replacement of old, polluting vehicles and use of shore-side electrical power for vessels at berth.
In regions such as the Pacific Northwest, where ambient pollution is not as severe, ports are working toward similar goals, although on a more extended timetable and often without fees and penalties.
Most container ports have developed clean-air initiatives, and the programs target at least truck and vessel emissions that together account for about 80 percent of port-generated pollution. Some ports offer financial incentives, while a handful, such as Los Angeles and Long Beach, contribute millions of dollars to environmental technology development programs that benefit the entire industry, Flagg said.
Although complying with environmental mandates is costly, and much of the expense will be reflected in the final delivered cost of the product, shippers and carriers are trying to convince regulators if they set the standards, the private sector will find the most effective strategies to achieve compliance.
Toyota, like many multinational shippers, has operated under self-imposed environmental guidelines that seek to reduce health-risk emissions as well as the company’s carbon footprint, Wade said.
Toyota has found pollution-reduction measures also can boost efficiency and reduce fuel consumption or lower power usage, producing financial benefits, too.
A program to reduce the speed of its delivery trucks by 5 mph has cut fuel consumption by 3 percent as well as reduced carbon emissions. Every one-half-mile-per-gallon improvement in mileage saves Toyota $138,000 in distribution costs. Likewise, solar panels installed on its distribution warehouse in Southern California generate 58 percent of the facility’s electricity, saving Toyota $360,000, Wade said.
Contact Bill Mongelluzzo at email@example.com.