Port Pollution Addressed Through Innovation

Posted : 12/31/12 2:47 AM

Ports are a major source of pollution, not only from the ships entering and leaving the harbor, but also from the numerous vehicles that service the port and handle the cargo coming in and going out. The latest ship designs can handle over ten thousand containers and that will often translate into an equal number of trucks needed to haul all of the containers away. Moving some of that load onto rail cars is but one of the many ways that port managers are employing to cut down on air pollution. The need for such reductions is becoming ever more apparent. Until now, few ports were obliged to meet air quality standards, but that has begun to change, spurring new efforts to cut back on the emissions spewing from these vital transit centers. Southern California is notorious for its smog and has waged a long and costly battle against it. The Los Angeles – Long Beach port complex is the largest single source of air pollution in the region and is now a target for reductions. The amount of cargo handled by this port complex has tripled in the last decade with a corresponding increase in emissions. Higher standards for auto emissions can no longer keep pace and without further regulation of port operations, targets for overall reductions of pollutants can not be met. The sort of bunker fuel used on many ships literally comes from the bottom of the barrel. It is the heaviest liquid obtained from the cracking process used in refining oil, and hence sinks to the bottom. This makes it heavy in particulates that foul the air. One of the simplest ways to reduce port pollution, therefore, is to require ships to use higher grades of fuel. Some ships now also employ emission control systems similar but on a larger sale to the catalytic converter systems used to curb automobile exhaust. Better fuel and exhaust controls drastically reduce ship pollution. Ship pollution can be eliminated entirely while ships are in port if they are able to plug into onshore electrical outputs while they are docked. Otherwise ships will often keep their engines running while berthed to maintain their electrical systems. Trucks are also being more heavily regulated. Like ships, they are being allowed to plug into shore based electricity so their engines can be shut off while they wait in line to load. Many are now also being converted to run on natural gas, which burns more cleanly.