California Ports Will Buy Cleaner Fuel to Cut Ship Emissions
SAN PEDRO, California, March 25, 2008 (ENS) - Los Angeles and Long Beach harbor commissioners Monday approved a plan to subsidize low-sulfur fuel to ships traveling close to the two ports or while docked. The program aims to improve air quality by reducing toxic ship emissions.

At a joint meeting in Wilmington, the harbor commissioners approved the incentive program aimed at accelerating cargo vessel operators' use of the cleaner-burning fuel for one year to ships transiting within 40 miles of San Pedro Bay and at berth in the port complex.

Cargo ships now use highly polluting bunker fuel, which generates the majority of sulfur oxide emissions in Southern California and makes ocean-going vessels the single largest source of air pollution at the two ports.

Under the incentive proposal, the ports would pay the difference between the price of bunker fuel and the more costly low-sulfur distillate fuel for vessel operators who make the fuel switch within at least 20 miles and out as far as 40 miles from the ports.

Container ship in the Port of Los Angeles, America's busiest port. (Photo credit unknown)

The ports are located in San Pedro Bay, 20 miles south of downtown Los Angeles.

The ports will earmark millions of dollars to pay vessel operators to use cleaner-burning, low-sulfur fuel in their main propulsion engines. Sulfur oxides, which contribute to the formation of health-threatening soot or particulate matter, will be cut by as much as 11 percent and particulate matter by nine percent, accelerating air quality improvements ahead of the schedule set by the San Pedro Bay Ports Clean Air Action Plan in November 2006.

"This joint effort demonstrates once again that these two ports are world leaders in aggressively and dramatically advancing environmental protection," said Los Angeles Harbor Commission President S. David Freeman. "It's important that we continue to work together to clean the ports' air so that one of Southern California's biggest job generators is also known as its greenest."

"Ships are the No. 1 pollution source here at the ports and we don't want to keep waiting for state regulations to kick in," said Long Beach Harbor Commission President Mario Cordero. "This program will give us significant improvements in air quality and provide a much-needed bridge to the important state regulations on low-sulfur fuels that will start next year."

The incentive program is expected to cost the Port of Los Angeles as much as $8.6 million and the Port of Long Beach as much as $9.9 million annually. The one year program would begin July 1 and expire June 30, 2009, unless extended by the two commissions.

"This program will incentivize our customers to start the process of switching over to low-sulfur fuel well ahead of future state emissions rules," says Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Geraldine Knatz PhD. "It's a great example of how our ports and industry can work together cooperatively to start reducing ship emissions this year in anticipation of future regulations."

On July 1, 2009, a pending California Air Resources Board regulation would require the use of low-sulfur fuel in cargo vessels' main propulsion engines within 24 nautical miles of the state's coast.

To qualify for the incentive program, the ships must also participate in the ports' voluntary Vessel Speed Reduction Program, limiting speeds to 12 knots during the switch to low-sulfur fuel. Most ships already participate in the speed reduction program, which also curbs emissions.

Trade valued annually at more than $100 billion moves through Long Beach, making it the second-busiest seaport in the United States. (Photo courtesy Port of Long Beach)

"At the Port of Long Beach we've proved that incentives work: Our Green Flag Program, which gives incentives for vessel speed reduction, has achieved more than 90 percent compliance," said Port of Long Beach Executive Director Richard Steinke. "I'm confident that the low-sulfur fuel incentives, with the two ports and maritime industry all working together, will see amazing results."

"This voluntary incentive-based program is the direct result of a coordinated public-private partnership with the ports to reduce ship emissions," said John McLaurin, president of the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association. "The bunker fuel replacement initiative builds upon other successful voluntary emissions reduction programs around the ports, including the vessel speed reduction program which has demonstrated a 90 percent compliance rate."

The ports' Clean Air Action Plan also calls for the ports to accelerate ship-emission reductions by including lease-based limits on sulfur content in fuel. This is still planned. The incentive program is aimed at reducing more emissions on an even faster schedule.

"We are moving full steam ahead in making our ports the cleanest and greenest in the world," said Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. "By switching to clean-burning fuel we will cut air pollution and help Southern Californians breathe easier."

"This proposal would immediately improve the air quality of Southern California," said Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster. "It is a collaborative and creative effort to tackle the single largest source of pollution from these two ports and is a big step forward in our efforts to clean the air."

Today, the public is invited to a community meeting hosted by the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles and the South Coast Air Quality Management District to gather comments on plans for the use of Proposition 1B air quality improvement funds.

The meeting will be held at 2 pm, at the Port of Long Beach Administration Building, 925 Harbor Plaza, Long Beach.

The agencies are seeking the public's input as they prepare to apply for funds from the Proposition 1B: Goods Movement Emission Reduction Program, approved by voters in November 2006.

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