The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have realized unprecedented reductions in harmful diesel emissions, especially from trucks, since the unveiling of their joint Clean Air Action Plan in 2006. Now they anticipate significant emissions reductions from vessels.
The ports in mid-August each released their emissions inventories for 2012. Regularly measuring pollution from vessels, trucks, trains, harbor craft and marine terminal handling equipment, the ports publish annual “report cards” on their progress.
Since the 2005 baseline year, the ports’ clean trucks programs have slashed truck pollution by more than 90 percent. Another big step toward reducing port pollution will be launched on Jan. 1, 2014, when California’s ports implement a state rule requiring carriers to operate their container ships from shore-side electrical power while at berth.
As the nation’s laboratory for testing and implementing green policies, Southern California provides a full menu of pollution-reduction options. Ports around the world choose those measures that work best in their regions.
The Port of Long Beach emissions inventory for 2012 shows that a key pollutant, diesel particulate matter, was reduced 81 percent from the 2005 baseline. The Port of Los Angeles registered a 79 percent drop in DPMs since 2005.
Long Beach reported that compared to 2005, nitrogen oxide emissions dropped 54 percent and sulfur oxide emissions were down 88 percent. Los Angeles reported that these two key components of smog, nitrogen oxide and sulfur oxide, were down 56 and 88 percent, respectively, from 2005 levels.
The ports, in cooperation with the many transportation companies and marine terminals that operate in Southern California, took the lead in implementing air quality programs in 2006, because, quite frankly, they had no choice, said Richard Cameron, acting managing director for environmental affairs and planning in Long Beach.
At first, industry peers considered these ports too aggressive in their requirements of pollution reductions from their tenants and vendors, but if they hadn’t moved in 2006 to slash harmful emissions, state and local regulatory agencies, as well as neighboring communities, would have prevented all port expansion projects.
Now, as ports around the world face similar pressures, “we are praised more than we are criticized,” Cameron said.
The clean trucks programs are a case in point. Los Angeles and Long Beach in 2008 launched the industry’s most aggressive effort to reduce diesel emissions by requiring that trucks with pre-2007 model engines be phased out within five years. The process was completed last year.
The results are dramatic. Compared to 2005, diesel particulate matter has dropped 94 percent, PM 2.5 emissions and PM 10 emissions each are down 93 percent, nitrogen oxide emissions dropped 79 percent, and sulfur oxide emissions were cut by 90 percent.
Port environmental managers decided to attack truck pollution first and hardest, Cameron said. Trucks in 2005 were the largest source of port pollution, and their impact on the region was most visible to neighboring communities.
The ports hope to reduce truck pollution further by working toward a zero emissions policy, but a zero emissions strategy for trucks isn’t commercially feasible with today’s technology, Cameron said. They are therefore reducing pollution from vessels, which have replaced trucks as the largest source of pollution in the harbor.
Vessels are a difficult source of pollution to address because they are mobile and they operate internationally. The International Maritime Organization is working to reduce vessel pollution through regulations for cleaner engines and cleaner fuels.
Los Angeles and Long Beach already are registering significant gains in clean air for vessels in transit. As a result of incentives offered to ship operators, most vessels lower speeds and burn low-sulfur fuels to reduce emissions when entering waters within 40 miles of the California coast.
The next big gain in reducing port-generated pollution will begin on Jan. 1, when California Air Resources Board regulations mandating the use of shore-side electrical power for vessels at berth take effect. At first, 50 percent of the container fleet calling at the ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach and Oakland must use alternative maritime power at berth. The AMP requirement will increase to 70 percent in 2017 and 80 percent in 2020.
California’s ports are the only ones in the world to require the use of shore-side power for container ships at berth. Some ports in Europe and Asia, however, have asked the California ports to share their AMP plans because they are feeling pressure from environmentalists and regulators to implement similar programs, said Ben Chavdarian, senior electrical engineer in Long Beach.
Chavdarian told a Propeller Club meeting in Long Beach in August that ports in Germany and South Korea believe it’s just a matter of time before they, too, will be installing the capacity to operate vessels at berth from shore-side electrical power. Furthermore, most large vessels today are constructed such that AMP capability can be added to the vessels easily and cost-effectively if California-type regulations spread elsewhere.
Much of the criticism that Los Angeles and Long Beach faced in recent years over the “California-only” requirements for truck, train and vessel emissions reductions was based on the premise that these measures would significantly increase the cost of doing business at the ports, and that the costs would be passed on to importers and exporters.
Cameron knows of no study that proves such assertions, nor does he believe there ever will be such a study, given the many factors that go into the pricing of ocean and intermodal transportation. Ocean freight rates from Asia to the West Coast, for example, are extremely volatile, increasing to $2,500 or more per 40-foot container during the peak season and dropping below $1,800 in the slack season.
Cameron added that in some instances a strong business case can be made for regulations that reduce pollution and cut carbon emissions. Those regulations often result in an increase in operational efficiency or a reduction in fuel consumption that can reduce transportation costs.