With little fanfare, three organizations that set international standards for global companies agreed in July on a single standard for the equipment used in supplying shore power to vessels at berth.
The International Standard for High Voltage Shore Connection Systems hasn’t created many waves in the maritime industry because California is the only place in the world that has mandated a timeline for operating vessels from shore-side electrical power while at berth.
However, a number of countries in Europe and Asia view the environmental initiative known as cold-ironing as the best way to reduce harmful nitrogen oxide, sulfur oxide, particulate matter and greenhouse gases from vessels at berth.
Now all ports and shipping lines that have been considering the use of shore-side electrical power have a single standard for the equipment that would allow vessels at berth to “plug in” to electrical grids that would power the ships’ lights, ventilation, communications, pumps and other functions.
The International Standards Organization, the International Electrotechnical Commission and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers published the standard in July after working on it for six years.
Maersk Line, the world’s largest container line, had representatives at the meetings where the standard was developed. Container ships operate globally, and Maersk, like other carriers, didn’t want to see ports in different countries installing different shore power systems each to their own liking.
“To be effective, there has to be a global standard,” said Lee Kindberg, Maersk’s environmental director. In the years ahead, vessels equipped to operate from shore power will be able to call at any port in any country that develops a system for delivering electricity to ships.
Eric Caris, assistant director of business development at the Port of Los Angeles, participated in the international meetings that developed the single standard. He estimates that about 300 container ships in the global fleet are equipped with cold-ironing capability or have been designed so the electrical systems can be installed easily.
The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in their joint 2006 Clean Air Action Plan led the way in the phasing in of shore power, and the California Air Resources Board has since published a timeline that covers Oakland as well as the Southern California ports.
The CARB timeline requires that by Jan. 1, 2014, 50 percent of container vessel calls achieve a 50 percent reduction in emissions. The standard increases to 70 percent of container vessel visits achieving a 70 percent reduction in emissions by Jan. 1, 2017, and 80 percent of vessel calls achieving an 80 percent reduction by Jan. 1, 2020.
The rule applies to vessel fleets that make at least 25 calls a year at the ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach or Oakland. Most shipping lines in the trans-Pacific maintain weekly services, so their services to California ports will fall under the CARB requirement.
Shore power eliminates vessel pollution while the ship is at berth, according to a fact sheet published by the Port of Long Beach. Overall pollution declined 95 percent when the emissions from the power plant that generates the electricity are included, the port stated. The Bay Area Air Quality Management District estimates container vessel pollution in Oakland will decline by 33 million tons a year because of the CARB mandate.
Four container terminals in Los Angeles, two in Long Beach and three in Oakland are equipped with or will be equipped with shore power capability by the end of this year. All of the container terminals at California’s three largest ports will be equipped with shore power in time to meet the CARB requirements.
No other U.S. port is seriously considering a mandate for shore power usage, even in those cities that aren’t in compliance with the federal Clean Air Act. Steve Coleman, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, said the East Coast’s largest port doesn’t plan to establish a shore power requirement at this time.
Caris, however, said some ports in North Europe and China have been considering establishing shore power requirements, and agreement on a global standard could be what they need to move forward. More container lines are expected to build cold-ironing capability into new vessels, although they may not immediately install the equipment, because including the capability in the design stage costs about half of the $1 million it costs to retrofit a vessel for cold-ironing.