OCEAN CARRIER REVIEW - Going green in Long Beach

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

Port enacts measures to mitigate vessel and truck pollutionBy Peter A. Buxbaum, AJOTThe boom in international trade of recent years has led to an increase in the number of ship calls at major US seaports. This, in turn, has highlighted an 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. Perhaps no program has achieved a greater level of development than at the ports of Southern California, and particularly, Long Beach.
Earlier this year, the port of Long Beach reported it had achieved a 620-ton reduction in air pollution at the port and credited fifteen shipping lines that helped in that effort by having the highest level of compliance with the port’s Green Flag air quality program. The Green Flag incentive program was started in 2005 to promote voluntary vessel speed reductions. In 2006, the compliance rate among Green Flag fliers was 82% and increased to 90% in 2007, a figure that increased in February 2008 to nearly 95%.
One-hundred forty six companies have earned Long Beach’s Green Flag, which rewards ships and vessel operators for voluntarily slowing ship speeds in the harbor to reduce air pollution. The recognized honored companies each had at least 68 trips in and out of the Port of Long Beach during 2007.
“These Green Flag awards recognize our most responsible corporate partners,” said Mario Cordero, president of the Long Beach Harbor Commission. “These companies have consistently delivered on our environmental challenges, resulting in improved air quality for the local community.”
Under the Green Flag program, the port discounts dockage fees to vessel operators who achieve compliance rates of 90% or more and to individual ships that have 100% compliance with the program for a year. In 2007, over 60% of all individual ships, for a total of 600 vessels, were 100% compliant, and over 60% of 240 vessel operators were 90% compliant.
Another aspect of the Green Flag program involves cooperation with the neighboring port of Los Angeles and includes incentives to encourage cargo vessel operators to use cleaner-burning fuel when sailing within 40 miles of San Pedro Bay and when at berth in either port.
As part of the program, which was approved by the Long Beach and Los Angeles commissioners in March, the ports will pay vessel operators to use cleaner-burning, low-sulfur fuel in their main propulsion engines as well as in their auxiliary engines while at berth in the port complex.
The goal of the program is to reduce ship emissions of toxic sulfur oxides, and to cut soot by 11% and particulate matter by nine percent. Bunker fuel currently used by cargo ships generates the majority of the sulfur oxide emissions in Southern California.
Under the program, the ports will pay the difference between the price of bunker fuel and more costly low-sulfur distillate fuel for vessel operators making the fuel switch within at least 20 miles from the ports. To qualify for the incentive program, the ships must also participate in the ports’ vessel speed reduction program, which limiting speeds to 12 knots during the switch to low-sulfur fuel.
The program essentially accelerates the adoption of a regulation promulgated by the California Air Resources Board would require the use of low-sulfur fuel in cargo vessels’ main propulsion engines within 24 nautical miles of the state’s coast. Those rules are scheduled to become effective on July 1, 2009.
“Ships are the number one pollution source at the ports and we don’t want to keep waiting for state regulations to kick in,” said Cordero. “This program will give us significant improvements in air quality and provide a much-needed bridge to the state regulations on low-sulfur fuels.”
The incentive program is expected to cost the port of Los Angeles $8.6 million and the port of Long Beach $9.9 million annually. The one-year program will begin July 1 and expire Ju

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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.