From Valparaiso, Chile, to Vancouver, British Columbia, ports face the reality that their land-use and business growth plans can’t be developed in a vacuum. The jobs they create and the taxes they generate must be balanced with the impact port growth has on the environment and the quality of life in nearby communities.
Port Metro Vancouver expects to double container volume during its next planning cycle, but the land-use program Canada’s largest port is developing will have as much input from community organizations and health advocacy groups as it does from marine engineers and trade economists.
As a result of this public participation, Vancouver’s Port 2050 plan will “look a lot different from what we expected earlier,” Duncan Wilson, the port’s vice president of corporate social responsibility, told the Pacific Ports Clean Air Collaborative Conference in Los Angeles last month.
Valparaiso’s port is surrounded on the landside by a world heritage city whose narrow streets and historical buildings can’t coexist with the port’s 450,000 truck moves each year. So the port is developing a truck access route that circumvents the historic city core, CEO Harold Jaeger said.
The actions are part of a broader move toward accommodation between ports and community activist groups. Plenty of confrontation remains, of course, but many ports are finding that if they can engage communities early in the planning process they can better meet all needs, including their own.
As ports plan for growth, they must respond to three key imperatives, said Robert Kanter, managing director of environmental affairs and planning at the Port of Long Beach. As business entities, they must design marine terminals and infrastructure that operate at a profit. At the same time, they have a responsibility to develop a sustainable port that meets the port’s current needs without compromising the needs of future generations. And ports must mitigate the health risks and traffic issues that port expansion creates in nearby communities, Kanter said.
Technological advancements in engine designs, clean fuels and improved operating techniques allow ports to handle increasing cargo volume even while reducing health risk and greenhouse gas pollutants, including diesel particulate matter, nitrogen oxide, sulfur oxide and carbon emissions.
Since the Long Beach-Los Angeles Clean Air Action Plan was adopted in 2006, emissions of nitrogen oxide have been reduced 46 percent; sulfur oxide, 73 percent; diesel particulate matter, 72 percent; and greenhouse gases, 18 percent, Rick Cameron, director of environmental planning at the Port of Long Beach, noted. The clean-trucks programs have reduced truck emissions
90 percent since 2005, Cameron said.
Ports foster green growth by using their leases to mandate pollution-reduction measures, but also by offering financial incentives to tenants and their vendors. Long Beach, for example, offers reduced dockage fees to vessel operators that steam slowly and switch to cleaner fuels within 40 miles of the port.
Although shipping lines prefer incentives to mandates, both may be necessary. Without policy and regulatory changes at the local, national and international levels, reductions in vessel emissions would not have proceeded as rapidly as they have, said Andreas Nordseth, chairman of the Consultative Shipping Group and director general of the Danish Maritime Authority.
Ports such as Shanghai are achieving significant pollution reductions from landside operations by converting cranes and other cargo-handling equipment from diesel to electric power, said Al-Hua Shen, deputy director of the Shanghai Port Administrative Center.
The move to zero and near-zero emission technologies is where the port and cargo-handling industries are ultimately headed, said Jared Blumenfeld, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Pacific Southwest Region. These innovations will require an even stronger emphasis on research and development, he said.
The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have formalized an innovation protocol through their Technology Advancement Program that makes $3 million a year available to entrepreneurs to test, prove and commercialize maritime industry technologies, said Herb Zimmer, chairman of PortTech LA.
Innovative projects involving marine oil, filters that trap tiny particulate emissions and hybrid vehicles have been assisted by the Technology Advancement Program. The ports and the maritime technology community in Southern California provide a “Petri dish” for new ideas, Zimmer said. A national study found that 87 percent of the businesses that went through an incubator program were still operating five years later, Zimmer said.
As truck and intermodal rail activity increases, communities are pushing back because of the health risks and traffic impacts inherent in the goods movement industry. Some groups such as Against Port Expansion in Vancouver are going so far as attempting to block port growth.