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Green Flags to Reward Clean Air

October 31, 2005

The Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners furthered its commitment to enhancing the environment, voting preliminary approval Monday, October 31, for a $2.2 million-a-year Green Flag Incentive Program to recognize individual ships and to reward fleet operators for reducing vessel speed to improve air quality.

“This is a major step in dealing with the air emissions from the ships,” said Harbor Commission President Doris Topsy-Elvord. “We’re not going to breathe easy until we do all we can for better air quality.” 

Beginning next year, vessels that observe a 12-knot speed limit within 20 miles of the Port during an entire year of voyages to and from Long Beach will be awarded a Green Flag to recognize their contributions to improved air quality. 

The ocean carriers, who operate the individual ships, will qualify for a 15 percent discounted “Green Flag” dockage rate during the following 12 months if 90 percent of their vessels comply with the 12-knot speed limit for a year. 

If all of the carriers qualify for Green Flag rates, the Port would make an estimated $2.2 million investment through reduced dockage collections to significantly cut emissions of nitrogen oxide (NOx), a component of smog. The Harbor Commission will review the results of the program in two years, and determine whether to continue it or not.

While the Long Beach and Los Angeles ports launched the Voluntary Vessel Speed Reduction Program together with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, California Air Resources Board, South Coast Air Quality Management District, Pacific Merchant Shipping Association and the Marine Exchange of Southern California in 2001, the new Green Flag program provides incentives only to vessels calling at the Port of Long Beach.  

After the first three years of the Vessel Speed Reduction Program, slightly more than one-third of the voyages met the speed limits cutting NOx by more than 100 tons a year. Beginning in 2004, the Pacific Maritime Association, the industry group that directs longshore workers, agreed to start the queue for labor allocations when ships came within 20 miles of the San Pedro ports rather than on the basis of which vessels are first to dock. 

Also in 2004, Long Beach Harbor Commissioners began meeting with its customers, urging them to voluntarily comply with the speed limits. Through the first half of 2005, the compliance rate has jumped to 67 percent, cutting NOx by more than one ton a day.

“With this award and reward program, our aim is 100 percent compliance, which would reduce NOx by almost 550 tons a year,” said Commission President Topsy-Elvord. “Many of our carriers have voluntarily complied. We want all of them to help improve air quality. With this program, we will let them fly a Green Flag if they do, and reward them for their contributions to good air quality.”  

The Harbor Commission has adopted a Green Port Policy that provides a framework for a more environmentally friendly Port of Long Beach. The Policy establishes programs that employ incentives and the best available technology, where appropriate, to make measurable progress in avoiding or minimizing the harmful impacts of port operations.


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