L.A. agreement will open China Shipping terminal

L.A. agreement will open China Shipping terminal

LONG BEACH - The Port of Los Angeles and the National Resources Defense Council are close to an agreement to open a container terminal which has remained idle since it was completed a year ago because of a requirement that berthed vessels operate from shore-side electrical power.

If successful, the environmental group plans to use the settlement to convince other container ports to sign similar agreements employing electrical power to reduce emissions from diesel-powered ships, a process known as cold ironing.

The NRDC last year successfully sued the Port of Los Angeles, charging that its environmental impact report for the new China Shipping Container Line terminal was inadequate. The port chose to negotiate a settlement rather than spend months to conduct a new environmental study. The settlement stipulated that all vessels calling at the terminal must operate from shore-side electrical power while at berth.

Since China Shipping's vessels, like those of most global container lines, are not equipped to operate from shore-side electrical power, the carrier has been calling at other terminals in Los Angeles-Long Beach.

According to California's South Coast Air Quality Management District, a container ship at berth for three days emits four tons of nitrogen oxides, or the same amount of pollution that is produced by two medium-sized power plants. Vessels at berth operate from auxiliary engines, which burn a low grade of diesel fuel.

The NRDC, with four offices in the U.S., wants to clean up the nation's ports, and its scientists are visiting ports around the world to determine best practices for reducing pollution from vessels, cargo handling equipment and trucks. The effort will result in a "green ports" model against which environmental practices at U.S. ports will be benchmarked, said Gail Ruderman Feuer, a senior attorney for the group based in Santa Monica, Calif.

The NRDC is also studying the environmental plans of the 10 largest container ports in the U.S. to determine if they are doing everything that they can to reduce pollution. The NRDC by the end of the year will publish a report grading the nation's top ports on their environmental efforts, Ruderman Feuer told the International Business Association Oct. 25.

Realizing that the electric power requirement has prevented any vessels from using the China Shipping terminal, the NRDC is re-negotiating the agreement with the Port of Los Angeles. China Shipping has committed to retrofitting at least one vessel so it can utilize electric power at port, and may commit to additional ships.

Ruderman Feuer would not reveal the terms of the amended agreement, but she is confident it will be signed. "Stay tuned on China Shipping. I expect that the terminal will open," she said.

Ruderman Feuer said the Los Angeles agreement should help the NRDC convince other ports to implement similar requirements when they build new terminals or expand existing ones. "We plan to knock on the door of the top 10 ports to improve their environmental practices," she said.