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Ports Expand Clean Fuel Choices for Vessels

Shipping lines receive incentives to use low-sulfur fuels near harbor

July 24, 2008

An innovative air quality program that offers incentives to oceangoing vessels for switching to cleaner, low-sulfur fuels when traveling near port has been expanded to make it even easier for shipping lines to participate.

Officials at the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles have expanded the definition of low-sulfur fuel to include both low-sulfur marine gas oil (MGO) and marine diesel oil (MDO), giving shipping lines more flexibility and another fuel option.

The use of MDO and MGO as equivalent emissions reduction options is consistent with the California Air Resources Board rule, adopted Friday, July 24, 2008, that will require vessels to use low-sulfur fuel near ports starting July 1, 2009. 

Port officials congratulate the 14 shipping lines and their nearly 140 ships that are already taking part in the ports' groundbreaking program, in which vessels are reimbursed when they run on low-sulfur fuel within 40 nautical miles of the harbor.

"This is an exciting program with potential to eliminate an enormous amount of air pollution," said Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners President James C. Hankla. "We applaud those shipping lines that have signed up and we welcome all carriers to join us in this important project."

As of July 23, 14 carriers at the two ports had enrolled in the incentive program: Carnival Cruise Line, CMA CGM, Evergreen Marine, Great American Lines, Hapag Lloyd, Hyundai Merchant Marine, Maersk, Magical Cruise Co. (Disney), Norwegian Cruise Line, NYK -- PCC Division, Orient Overseas Container Line (OOCL), Prestige Cruises, Toyofuji Shipping and "K" Line. These carriers have enrolled a total of 136 vessels which are scheduled to make nearly 300 port calls during each quarter or three-month period. 

"On the first day of this program, we had more than 100 ships committed to using cleaner fuel in their engines -- that alone shows the partnership both ports have forged with our customers in the mission to move forward in cleaning up operations on all fronts," said Los Angeles Harbor Commission President S. David Freeman.

The program is simple. Vessel operators agree to switch to low-sulfur fuel within at least 20 nautical miles -- and as far as 40 -- from Point Fermin, and to slow their speed to 12 knots or less. Low-sulfur fuel is more expensive than the bunker fuel typically used by ships. So in exchange, the ports reimburse the vessel operators for the difference. In one year, the program could cost the Port of Long Beach $9.9 million, and the Port of Los Angeles $8.6 million.

The program started on July 1, 2008, and is scheduled for a year, in anticipation of the California Air Resources Board rule requiring the use of low-sulfur fuels near ports starting July 1, 2009. 

MDO, or marine diesel oil, was added as a low-sulfur option because it has the same pollution-reduction properties as marine gas oil, which has been part of the program since its inception. 

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