California’s Ports the First Worldwide to Require Container Ships at Berth to Operate from Shore-Side Electrical Power

Posted : 02/17/14 4:17 PM

Effective January 1, 2013, California ports became the first worldwide to require vessels operate from shore-side electrical power while at berth. This required the international shipping industry to equip vessels and container berths with equipment to operate the vessels’ engines with low-polluting electrical power while at berth. In addition, low-sulfur fuel regulations, aimed to reduce harmful diesel emission from vessels in transit, required using fuels with no more than 0.1% of sulfur content. The at-berth regulation must be conformed to over the next six years. In that time frame, 50% of a container line’s fleet must be able to use shore-side electrical power, with increases to 70% in 2017 and 80% in 2020. Standards to measure compliance are already in place. Environmentalists are confident that this pioneering California model will eventually and gradually be adopted by other ports in Asia, Europe and the US. Once California-bound vessels comply, they will be allowed access to other ports around the world, having already complied with the stringent California regulations. T.L. Garrett, vice president of the PMSA, which represents shipping lines and terminal operators on the West Coast, advised that any vessel, on its first berthing in Los Angeles, Long Beach, or Oakland, must be tested at the berth to prove it can comply with the new regulations. Understanding the competitive nature of the maritime industry, flexibility is being granted during the implementation. A good-faith effort would be considered compliant in the beginning. There is also flexibility being demonstrated in allowing the development of alternatives to these standards of pollution reduction, especially in the interest of cost savings. Two Southern California companies, for example, are testing technologies to cap the smokestack of a vessel at berth, thereby capturing smokestack emissions and the safe disposition of pollutants. This “sock-on-a-stack” technology could be a permanent structure right at the berth, although placing the device on a barge-mounted device is also being considered. Understanding the developmental nature of the technology, the California Air Resources Board, which helped develop the program, is allowing continued technology testing, as long as vessels meet the 50% requirement. In preparing their terminals for the shore-side electrical power requirement, the Port of Los Angeles uses Alternative Maritime Power (AMP). Mike Christensen, deputy executive director of development, said that “Since container ships vary by size, and electrical equipment can be installed at different locations on ships, Los Angeles built multiple electrical receptacles at each berth. The Port of Los Angeles has 25 berths equipped for AMP, with 69 individual receptacles spread out over those 25 berths.”