Port of L.A.’s clean air focus
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Five-year-old Clean Air Action Plan reduced emissions from cargo-handling operations.
By Eric Kulisch
November marked the fifth anniversary of the San Pedro Bay ports’ adoption of a landmark Clean Air Action Plan, a comprehensive strategy to reduce air pollution and associated health risks.
Under the plan, the ports pledged not only to reduce overall emissions but to make sure that each ton of cargo would be moved with fewer emissions in the coming years.
The ports have almost finished phasing out all trucks with old, “dirty” diesel engines, introduced a voluntary program to encourage ocean carriers to reduce speed and switch to lower-sulfur fuel on the approach to the harbor to minimize emissions, retrofitted container handling equipment and harbor craft engines with pollution control devices, and begun to build power stations and transformers on the wharf to power ships with electricity so they don’t run their diesel boilers while at berth.
Having achieved significant reductions in pollution levels makes further incremental reductions more difficult, but the Port of Los Angeles has a few new initiatives designed to further improve air quality.
The Port of Los Angeles cut emissions from cargo-handling operations between 2005 and 2010, including a 70 percent reduction in diesel particulate matter and a 76 percent drop in sulfur oxide even as cargo volumes rose by 5 percent during the same period.
The anti-pollution measures have opened the door to further expansion of the ports, which had been held up for years by legal challenges from environmentalists and local communities upset about the health impacts of diesel emissions.
A major initiative underway at the Port of Los Angeles is the expansion and renovation of the TraPac Terminal, which serves six container lines. TraPac is the most obsolete terminal in the San Pedro Bay complex. The project will add on-dock rail, deepen the berths, upgrade 50 acres of backland for improved container handling methods, and reconfigure the main gate to reduce truck queuing caused by trains blocking the main entrance.
TraPac will be the Port of Los Angeles’ first semi-automated terminal, with electric rail-mounted gantry cranes instead of diesel, rubber-tired ones to move containers around the yard and interface with delivery trucks.
In addition to increasing the productivity of the facility, operated by an arm of Japanese carrier MOL, the project will incorporate new technologies to mitigate any impact on the environment.
Shore-side electrification stations are being built for vessels that have the capability to accept electric power. Emissions treatment technologies will be available for vessels that are not retrofitted to plug into shore-side electric power.
A modernized TraPac is part of the port’s effort to provide an attractive alternative to shippers considering the Panama Canal option to reach ports on the East Coast.
Getting permits for a project with a new configuration and equipment that hasn’t been built in the port before takes time, especially to meet safety and fire codes, but Knatz said the goal is to complete the project by the time the Panama Canal expansion opens to traffic in 2014.
Meanwhile, the Port of Los Angeles intends to become the first U.S. port to sign onto a new incentive program developed by the International Association of Ports and Harbors (IAPH) that rewards vessels for going beyond the International Maritime Organization standards for reducing vessel emissions, Knatz said.
As part of its Climate Initiative to reduce greenhouse gases, the IAPH has developed an Environmental Ship Index that compares the actual performance of a ship with a set baseline for nitrous oxide, sulfur oxide and carbon dioxide emissions. The scores are weighted by compound, because NOx emissions from ships are about twice that of SOx, and by location because ships at berth or near a port have a larger environmental and health impact than those far out to sea.
Four ports in Europe now offer incentives through the Environmental Ship Index program and several others are in the process of developing their own programs.