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Port Wins EPA Clean Air Award

Green Flag Program honored for pollution reduction from ships

May 14, 2009

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has awarded its prestigious Clean Air Excellence Award to the Port of Long Beach for the Green Flag Program.

Port officials received the award May 13 at the 9th Annual Clean Air Excellence Awards held in Washington D.C.  This is the second year in a row that the Port has earned the recognition, one of EPA’s top awards for environmental efforts.

“We are proud to receive this honor from the EPA,” said Harbor Commission President James C. Hankla. “And we also recognize our partners in the shipping industry who have wholeheartedly embraced our efforts to clean up our environment.”

The Green Flag program offers reduced dockage fees to shipping companies that voluntarily slow down their ships to 12 knots within 20 nautical miles of Point Fermin in San Pedro. Slower ships burn less fuel and emit less air pollution.

Since the incentive program began in 2006, the number of vessels slowing down for cleaner air has increased from 76 percent to 94 percent in 2008.

As a result, the Green Flag program is reducing harmful air pollution by hundreds of tons a year.  The program is cutting 678 tons a year of Nitrogen Oxides (NOx), 453 tons of sulfur oxides (SOx), 60 tons of diesel particulate matter (PM) and more than 26,000 tons of greenhouse gases.

The Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners recently expanded the slowdown zone to 40 nautical miles for additional pollution reductions.  Since this program expansion went into effect, the number of vessels slowing down in the 20 to 40 nautical mile zone has increased from 40 percent last year to 75 percent by March 2009.

Under the Green Flag rules, ocean carriers that achieve 90 percent or higher compliance rate in a calendar year qualify for a 15 percent reduction in dockage fees from the Port the following year.  In 2008, ocean carriers saved an estimated $1.6 million in fees while helping reduce air pollution. The port has committed $2.2 million a year to the program.

Ship speeds are measured and recorded by the independent Marine Exchange of Southern California.

The Clean Air Excellence Awards recognizes innovative, unique and sustainable pollution control efforts that provide a model for others in the country.

Last year, the Port won the award jointly with the Port of Los Angeles for the San Pedro Bay Ports Clean Air Action Plan. CAAP, as it is known, is the first program of its kind in the country and aims to decrease emissions in the two ports by 50% in five years.

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