A call to action: The Ports of LA and LB embark on ambitious clean air initiative



Heather Tomley and Thomas Jelenic, Senior Environmental Specialists, Port of Long Beach, USA


It takes a lot of machinery to move the US$260 billion a year in trade passing through the adjacent ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles – the two busiest seaports in the United States.

That machinery – ships, trucks, trains, harbour craft and other equipment – is a major source of air pollution in Southern California, a region that already experiences some of the worst air quality in the nation.

Meanwhile, the ports in the long term have experienced a dramatic increase in containerised trade. It began in the early 1990s and continued to recent years, with the ports together handling about 16 million TEUs in 2007 – about 40 per cent of all such cargo in the US.As air quality issues intensified, the ports realised it was time for

Thus was created the San Pedro Bay Ports Clean Air Action Plan, or CAAP, an aggressive, sweeping strategy to slash portrelated emissions of air pollutants by more than 45 per cent over a five-year period.

The ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles and their respective governing boards collaborated with environmental regulators – the US Environmental Protection  Agency, the California Air Resources Board and the South Coast Air Quality Management District – to create an unprecedented plan, approving it in November 2006.

CAAP is the most comprehensive, far-reaching strategy to combat air pollution ever developed by any US seaport. In the end the emissions of diesel particulates will be cut by more than 50 per cent, or 1,200 tonnes per year. Smog-forming nitrogen oxides will be slashed by 45 per cent, or 12,000 tonnes per year.

The plan will reduce emissions even as cargo traffic increases. Rapid growth is expected to occur in the next 20 years, with the ports’ joint throughput expected to increase to a potential 62 million TEUs in 2030, according to a recently completed cargo forecast report.

The ports recognise that their plans to accommodate that potential growth will depend upon their ability to remedy growth’s adverse environmental impacts – particularly when it comes to air quality.

Switching line switches to clean diesel locomotives

Pacific Harbor Line is the railroad that provides switching services in both ports. In a major step forward for the CAAP, the railroad agreed to replace its entire locomotive fleet with lower-emission, clean-diesel engines. The replacement of 16 locomotives began in early 2007 and will be completed this year with the arrival of the final remanufactured locomotives from the MotivePower Inc. plant in Boise, Idaho.

The new locomotives meet the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Tier 2 standards and replaced some very mature engines, some of which were 50 years old. The new engines emit 70 per cent less diesel particulates and 46 per cent less smog-forming nitrogen oxides. Because the new engines are 30 per cent more
fuel efficient, they also produce less greenhouse gases.

A massive drayage fleet rollover

A keystone of the CAAP is the Clean Trucks Program. The drayage fleet serving the two ports is aging yet active, running about 60,000 truck trips per day. The ports have acted to establish a US$35 per TEU fee on every loaded container entering or leaving terminals by truck to help pay for the replacement or retrofitting of the entire 16,800- truck drayage fleet. The ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles have also committed to use US$166 million from port operating funds toward this effort. State bond funds and other sources will also be sought to cover the US$2 billion expense of this major equipment upgrade.

The trucks will need to be replaced because of the phasedin ban on older, dirty trucks, which starts with a ban on pre- 1989 model year rigs as of October 1, 2008. By January 1, 2012, it will keep out all trucks that do not meet the 2007 federal Environmental Protection Agency standard. This standard requires the trucks to emit 70 per cent less nitrogen oxides and 90 per cent less diesel particulates than the average drayage truck in use today. The Port of Long Beach has also emphasised the use of natural gas-fuelled big rigs, seeking that at least half of the trucks subsidised through the Clean Trucks Program should be powered by alternative fuel.

Advancing the technology of moving cargo with less emissions

Much of the technology that CAAP utilises to achieve emissions reductions is already on the shelf. However, there are many areas ripe for clean innovation in the  goods movement industry. So the ports included a Technology Advancement Program as part of the CAAP strategy, with each port committing US$1.5 million a year for five years to help bring more clean technology into the market. The ports have contributed financially to the development by Seattle’s Foss Maritime of the first hybrid tugboat which anticipates cutting emissions by more than 40 per cent and fuel use by as much as 30 per cent. The tug is expected to be operational in fall of 2008.

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