Getting paid for going green

By: | at 08:00 PM | Channel(s): Ports & Terminals  Liner Shipping  

Carrier calling on Seattle receive payments for burning cleaner fuelsBy Peter A. Buxbaum, AJOTAlthough volumes of cargo in international trade have been down lately, the trend line over the last decade or more as been strongly in the positive direction. This has led to an increase in the number of ship calls at major U.S. seaports and, in turn, has highlighted the elevated contribution that seagoing vessels make to landside pollution.
As a result, many ports have embarked on environmental programs to mitigate the effects ships have on the ports’ local environments. The ports of Southern California, and particularly Long Beach, with its Green Flag initiative, have been making headlines with their efforts to stem the contribution to that region’s legendary air pollution by ocean vessels and trucks.
But the ports of San Pedro Bay are not the only ones implementing environmental programs. Twelve- hundred miles to the north, the Puget Sound ports of Seattle, Tacoma, and Vancouver, B.C., are also involved in a regional effort to mitigate port-related pollution. The port of Seattle, in particular, has distinguished itself by initiating a program of incentive payments to ocean carriers that burn low-sulfur fuel while docked at the port.
The At-Berth Clean Fuels (ABC Fuels) program was devised by the port of Seattle to meet the goals of the Northwest Ports Clean Air Strategy, a joint effort by the Ports of Seattle, Tacoma and Vancouver and their private-sector partners to reduce maritime related air emissions. That strategy, released in 2007, had as its objectives the reduction of maritime and port-related air quality impacts on human health, the environment, and the economy and helping the region to continue to meet air quality standards and objectives. The primary action called for in the strategy with respect to ocean vessels was the introduction of cleaner fuels at dockside and at anchor for frequent port callers.
“The Northwest Ports Clean Air Strategy for the most part is looking to set time lines and targets for the Puget Sound region,” said Linda Styrk, managing director of our the port of Seattle’s seaport division. “Each individual port has to come up with its own approaches.”
The approach hit upon by the port of Seattle was to pay carriers burning cleaner fuel in port for each vessel call. Vessels participating in Seattle’s ABC Fuels program agree to use low sulfur fuel (0.5% or less) in their auxiliary engines while docked. In exchange, the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency helps defray the cost of the more expensive low sulfur fuel by providing participating vessels with $2,250 for each port call.
The port of Seattle funds those payments through the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency. “A funding plan was submitted to our elected port commissioners who supported the initiative,” said Styrk. “Funds set aside for environmental programs have been used to make the payments.” The level of payments was increased in 2010 from $1,500 per call.
“We are giving recognition to the fact of the cost differential between regular bunker fuels and low sulfur fuels,” said Styrk. “We wanted to provide a partial subsidy to pick up some of of that differential. We also wanted to create an approach which recognized the travel time from the open ocean to the port.”
In 2009 six container carriers and two cruise lines participated in the program are participating in ABC Fuels, representing 30 percent of the total ship calls at the port. Participating shipping lines include APL, CMA CGM, China Ocean Shipping Company (COSCO), Hapag Lloyd, Maersk Line, Matson Navigation, and Norwegian Cruise Line. Based on participation in the first two months of this year, ABC Fuels is on track to eliminate 72 metric tons of sulfur emissions in 2010, according to Styrk.
The ABC Fuels programs includes a verification process, through which participants log and show proof of their fuel purchases and fuel use. On-board inspections are conducted by Det Norske Veritas (DNV), a classification society based in Norw

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Peter Buxbaum has been writing about international trade and transportation, as well as security, defense, technology, and foreign policy, for over 20 years. Besides contributing to the AJOT, Buxbaum's work has appeared in such leading publications as [em]Fortune, Forbes, Chief Executive, Computerworld, and Jane's Defence Weekly[/em]. He was educated at Columbia University.