New Regulations for Vessel Emissions Explained by Port Officials at Aquarium of the Pacific Live Webcast


Images courtesy of the Aquarium of the Pacific.

On Wednesday morning, January 21, Port of Long Beach (POLB) Managing Director of Planning and Environmental Affairs Rick Cameron and Port of Los Angeles (POLA) Director of Environmental Management Chris Cannon spoke alongside Aquarium President and CEO Dr. Jerry R. Schubel to inform the public of the new air pollution regulations that went into effect January 1, 2015.

During the live webcast at the Aquarium of the Pacific, a projected map of the ship tracks over a 12-month period from October 2004 to 2005 was displayed on the Aquarium’s “Science on a Sphere.” The tracks only represented 11 percent of all the ships operating in the ocean at that time, said Schubel.

“It’s useful to remind ourselves that international trade, more than 95 percent of the cargo moves by ship. It's actually more than 98 percent in terms of weight and volume, so the ships at our ports are extraordinarily important to the national and international economy,” he explained.

According to Schubel, if the POLB and POLB were combined, the two ports would constitute the ninth largest port complex in the world, in terms of container volume.

Both ports are now subject to new regulations under a revised version of Annex VI of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL, short for Maritime Pollution), which applies to ships operating up to 200 nautical miles off of U.S. shores. MARPOL, developed by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and adopted in 1973, originally covered pollution by oil, chemicals, harmful substances in packaged form, sewage and garbage. The convention has been amended over the years, with Annex VI, first adopted in 1997, establishing limits on nitrogen oxides emissions and requiring the use of fuel with lower sulfur content in an effort to protect people’s health and the environment. The aforementioned chemicals are a major cause of ozone-producing pollution and can cause smog and aggravate asthma.

DSC 0456“I believe that this has been ground zero of the environmental stewardship movement for the maritime industry,” said Cameron. “We’re looking to the future and we’re not done. We have some big challenges when it comes to continuing to work within the region and meeting attainment for health risk purposes. We’re looking at the port of the future as being a lot more efficient and with that is going to be cleaner operations that come with that.”

Cannon explained during the webcast that the regulations are enforced through audit, while MARPOL released a penalty policy on January 16, 2015, for violations of the Sulfur in Fuel Standard and Related Provisions for vessels. Fuel records and ignitions are checked by the U.S. Coast Guard.

“One of the ships was actually just issued a citation because they were not using the proper fuels,” he said.

Cameron noted that the POLB’s Clean Air Action Plan, which was designed and approved in 2006 to reduce air pollution emissions from port-related cargo movement, has resulted in a 90 percent reduction in cohesive particulate matter, sulfur and other chemicals. As part of the Clean Air Action Plan, the Clean Truck Program has played a major role in the aforementioned emission reduction, however the focus has now shifted to ocean-going vessels.

During the webcast, Cameron stated, “We’ve looked at our vessels, in terms of vessel operations, both within the port as well as when they’re going or coming from San Pedro Bay. With the international standard, Annex VI, looking at regulating fuels on vessels as well as future engine standards, the two ports were very supportive and worked side by side with the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Coast Guard, and supported this international standard, which sets a fair playing field when it comes to the environmental control area, and our waters.”

Small, yet integral steps, like the two Green Assist Hybrid Tugs designed by Foss Maritime for POLB operations are the first of their kind and represent a step toward building a port operations culture of environmental sustainability. The “Carolyn Dorothy” was the first one developed, while another soon followed.

“For their operation,” said Cameron, “they looked at it not just from an environmental stewardship perspective, but they looked at it from the bottom up and now what we’re seeing is that this type of technology and this type of mode is really starting to catch on.”

Both port representatives mentioned the Green Flag Incentive Program, which incentivises vessels to reduce their speed to 12 knots within 40 nautical miles of each port. The ships emit less when they travel more slowly and are also less likely to injure migrating whales. Slowing ships are rewarded with dockage rate reductions and are awarded with the Green Flag environmental achievement award for their compliance of at least one year.

“It's not so much about the incentive, it's about them building into the culture of receiving a Green Flag, they're very proud of it,” said Cameron. “I think we're starting to see the private industry culture embrace sustainability rather than just you know, put it in leaflets. I think you're starting to see it in their practices and in how they view their business in the future.”

Schubel said during the webcast, “The harbors are teeming with marine life and we can thank the clean water act and the port's commitment to implementing that for this improvement. I think this is important for us to realize that this is an example of humans and nature coexisting in harmony. Reducing climate change, sea levels rising, by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, switching from dirty fuels, to cleaner fuels, including natural gas, solar and electric power in their terminals, for their trucks, their trains and their ships that serve their terminals. As they implement shoreside and electric power for ships, and electric and natural gas power for trucks, and terminal equipment, they are leading the way in the entire shipping industry. I think it's clear to me that the ports have been very good neighbors, and through their efforts, they have become a positive factor in our environmental protection efforts here in Southern California.”

DSC 0465Cannon said that while air quality is a major point of focus, the POLA’s Water Resources Action Plan has worked considerably well in protecting and nurturing the thriving marine habitat at the port. Dolphins, kelp beds and the sea lions who live on the rocks at Pier 400 are all markers of the industry’s coexistence with marine life. The exchange of ballast water, however, still remains a challenge to be solved.

A webcast listener sent in the question, “Can you explain the concern about ballast water and how the regulations are addressing that?”

Cannon explained, “There are new requirements now that you can't exchange ballast water when you get into the port, it has to be done out at sea. There are also some requirements that test the ballast water itself to make sure that there aren't any organisms in it and a lot of discussion about having ballast water exchange systems at the wharfs themselves.”

Ballast water exchange systems at the wharfs would be a challenge to implement because of limited space, however on-ship cleansing or cleaning systems for ballast water are currently being tested, according to Cannon. Ballast water often contains organisms from where the ships have traveled from, bringing invasive species into existing habitats. The organisms that have been transported may flourish because the environment that controls their growth may not exist in their new environment, potentially endangering existing species. According to Schubel, this problem is a much more pertinent issue in the San Francisco Bay Area compared to Southern California, but is still a concern to be regulated.

“Some of the ballast water the ships carry would make them the largest aquariums in the world,” Schubel chimed in. “One of the reasons we’ve had less of a problem is that most of the ships who come here are fully loaded, so they don’t have a whole lot of ballast water. When they leave many of them are sailing light, so they take on ballast water. So my hunch is, we export more animals to other places than we import.”

“You'd think that with 43 percent of imported goods in the United States coming into these two ports, you'd think the water would be dirty, but in fact it's clean.” said Cannon. “We're happy to say that this is an important element of our success. Our future is going to be based on us focusing on a reduced reliance on combustion based engine sources and that means leaning toward zero emissions and hybrid technologies.”

A recording of the live webcast will be available to watch Thursday morning, January 22 on the Aquarium’s website. Guests can also see the A Working Waterfront: Seaports of the San Pedro show daily at the Aquarium on its “Science on a Sphere.”

Watch the full webcast below, courtesy of the Aquarium of the Pacific.

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