China Container ready to 'plug in' at Los Angeles

China Container ready to 'plug in' at Los Angeles

A China Shipping Container Line vessel is scheduled to make its first call Monday at the Port of Los Angeles, and plug into dockside electrical power at the carrier's new terminal.

The arrival of the Xin Yang Zhou, a 4,105-TEU panamax vessel, marks the official opening of the terminal after environmental groups waged a successful 16-month legal battle against diesel emissions at the Southern California port.

While the call is officially being called "a test," the vessel will unload and load container cargo under shoreside electrical power , a process called "cold ironing."

The opening of the terminal was delayed after the National Resources Defense Council sued the port, saying it had not followed proper environmental procedures.

A settlement between the port and the NRDC resulted in a lengthy list of provisions that the group said will result in the first "green port" in the United States.

"China Shipping Container Line is proud to be the first, and currently only carrier serving the United States with cold-ironing vessels," a spokesman for China Shipping said Friday. "The China Shipping Terminal at Pier 100 Los Angeles incorporates cold ironing configurations with several other features, including low emissions shore machinery. The steps taken by China Shipping in conjunction with the Port of Los Angeles guarantee that the facility will be the first truly "green terminal" facility in North America."

The carrier, in the midst of a large shipbuilding program, has ordered more vessels that can use clean electric power while in port, instead of relying on shipboard generators that use bunker fuel, a dirty blend of diesel.

Converting vessels to plug into dockside power is expensive: the cost has been estimated at $2 million to $3 million per vessel. But the NDRC has maintained that adding the feature during construction is much less expensive at $200,000 to $300,000 per vessel.

"There is no single answer on how much it costs," the carrier's spokesman said. "It depends on the size and type of a vessel. But it is between one-tenth and one-fifth the cost of retrofitting."

Other vessels on schedule to be delivered in the next few months will be equipped for electrical power as well, he said. "No decision has been made on exactly how many will be able to cold-iron, but it will enable us to meet the requirements of the settlement."

The settlement requires that 70 percent of vessels calling at the terminal turn off their diesel engines while in port. The China Shipping spokesman said more vessels than the bare minimum needed to meet the threshold will be able to cold-iron because the same ships won't always be in the rotation for the weekly service.

In addition to the new vessel capabilities, the China Shipping terminal will have two "low-profile" cranes designed to reduce the visual impact of the port development on the neighboring community, he said.