The Port of Long Beach is ready to meet California’s mandate for at least half of all container ships to run on shore-side electricity at berth beginning Jan. 1, 2014.
With only a few finishing touches remaining, the work is getting done ahead of the state’s deadline and under budget.
“With three months to go, we’ve completed the landside testing at all but two of the 12 berths,” Acting Chief Harbor Engineer Sean Gamette announced Oct. 21 at the Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners meeting. “Testing on those berths will be completed in the coming weeks.”
The report signals the end of the Port’s intensive two-year construction program to ramp up for the shore power regulation. It also heralds the start of a new generation of aggressive measures to cut harmful emissions from ships, the largest source of port-related pollution.
Ships generate more than 60 percent of the emissions from port-related operations, said Rick Cameron, Acting Managing Director of Environmental Affairs & Planning. “Since 2006, we’ve made huge progress in cutting emissions from trucks, trains and cargo-handling equipment, and we’ve made a major dent in curbing vessel pollution,” Cameron said. “But the requirement to plug in at berth will be a game-changer.”
Based on total ship calls, at least 50 percent of an ocean carrier’s fleet of container, reefer and cruise ships must plug into shore power starting Jan. 1 at six California ports. Carriers are subject to an additional requirement: Each fleet must reduce its total emissions by 50 percent.
Higher compliance rates will be phased in over the next six years, requiring 80 percent of target vessels to plug in, based on ship calls, and fleets to show an 80 percent reduction in emissions by 2020. The rule affects fleets calling at the ports of Long Beach, Los Angeles, San Diego, Oakland, San Francisco and Hueneme and applies to all operators whether they are owners or control the ship under a lease, third-party or some other agreement.
Between its own clean air strategies and the willingness of industry partners to voluntarily green their operations, the Port of Long Beach has had a jump on implementing shore power programs ahead of the regulation. Even before the California Air Resources Board adopted its final rule in 2008, International Transportation Service and K Line teamed with the Port and successfully plugged in the first vessel calling at Long Beach to run on electricity at berth at Pier G.
In 2009, tankers began plugging into shore power at berth at Pier T. The terminal formerly operated by BP and now by Tesoro made history as the first and only place in the world where oil tankers can run on electricity at berth.
In 2011, SSA Terminals and Matson followed suit at the Pier C container terminal. Along the way, the Port’s own Senior Electrical Engineer Ben Chavdarian emerged as a global expert for his role in helping to develop the international standard for high-voltage shore connection systems that was finalized in 2012.
“That wealth of experience put us in great shape to meet the technical and operational challenges of retrofitting the Port’s remaining 12 container berths,” Gamette said. “With the competition from other ports for contractors and materials to meet the pending regulation, Long Beach knew what was needed and moved swiftly and proactively to secure the most favorable bids and lock in the best construction schedules to minimize disruptions to cargo operations and avoid delays.”
The Port also saved money. With $127 million budgeted to wire the remaining 12 berths, the Port expects the final costs to total $116 million – a cost-savings of $11 million or about 9 percent.
Outreach to tenants and shipping lines has been as intensive as readying the infrastructure. Staff from the Port’s engineering, construction, environmental, trade and communications divisions have worked closely with CARB officials to ensure terminal operators and shipping lines have as much information as possible to comply with the pending regulation.
Long Beach’s vessel operators are hurrying to get ready. Questions remain on how CARB will handle instances of non-compliance throughout California. The regulation provides for penalties of up to hundreds of thousands of dollars annually. “Our best information is that CARB will review violations on a case-by-case basis,” Cameron said. “The agency has been focused on compliance, and it is expected to differentiate between companies making a real effort and those doing nothing.”
Compliance will be evaluated on a quarterly basis, with the first annual statement due March 1, 2015. However, CARB can request records at any time and they must be furnished within 30 days.
During an Oct. 22 web seminar, the agency reminded terminal operators and shipping lines that enforcement inspectors can show up at any time. Also, a ship must plug in if it can.
Just as berths have to be “commissioned” or tested to certify they are shore power ready, so do ships. After Jan. 1, a carrier seeking to commission a ship won’t earn credit for its first call if the vessel is only tested and doesn’t stay plugged in for the duration of its time at berth, said Renee Moilanen of the Port’s Environmental Planning Division.
“That’s an excellent reason for carriers to get their ships commissioned before Jan. 1.”