Northwest ports commit to phasing out maritime emissions by 2050


(TACOMA, Wash.) — The Northwest Ports of Vancouver (British Columbia), Seattle, Tacoma and the combined container operations of The Northwest Seaport Alliance are jointly committing to a new vision to phase out emissions from seaport-related activities by 2050. In collaboration among the four ports, the Northwest Ports Clean Air Strategy seeks to meet this target through changes in equipment, fuels and infrastructure, supporting cleaner air for local communities, and fulfilling the ports’ shared responsibility to help limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

“In order for us to meet these ambitious long-term targets that benefit the climate and surrounding communities, it’s essential that the state and federal government partner with the ports to provide progressive policies and financial assistance that create incentives for their adoption prior to regulatory obligations,” said Fred Felleman, Port of Seattle Commission president and co-chairman of The Northwest Seaport Alliance. “Given the looming climate crisis, it’s also critical to recognize that we are committed to making near term progress in collaboration with our business and community partners.”

The Northwest Seaport Alliance

“Even though maritime transport is an efficient means to move goods and people, the industry still relies on fossil fuels, and global growth in activity means that emissions overall are still on the rise,” said Dick Marzano, Port of Tacoma Commission president and co-chairman of The Northwest Seaport Alliance. “Through the Northwest Ports Clean Air Strategy, ports have a blueprint to do their part by helping to protect air quality and responding to the international call to take action on climate change.”

“As Canada’s largest port, we are committed to supporting the government of Canada’s goal of achieving net zero emissions by 2050,” said Robin Silvester, president and chief executive officer of the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority. “The Northwest Ports Clean Air Strategy is a key part of our efforts to advance the clean energy transition while protecting the competitiveness of the port and the economic prosperity it delivers to our communities.”

Building upon the partnerships and successes of the last decade, the ports’ commitment recognizes the urgency of the climate crisis and the need to reduce diesel emissions, especially in areas where air quality is poor, while ensuring the continuity and competitiveness of the ports. Engagement across the ports, industry, government, and communities shaped the strategy vision and objectives. The strategy covers six sectors of port activity: oceangoing vessels, cargo-handling equipment, trucks, harbor vessels, rail, and port administration and tenant facilities.

Over the past decade, the strategy has achieved significant results. The 2013 strategy set targets to reduce diesel particulate matter (DPM) and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions per metric ton of cargo by 80 percent and 15 percent, respectively, relative to 2005 levels. The reductions can be attributed to changes in international, national, and provincial regulations, industry action, and port policies and programs to accelerate the turnover of older equipment and use of cleaner fuels.

There is more to do, as recent data suggest that GHG emissions from international shipping are increasing, not decreasing. According to the International Maritime Organization, GHG emissions from shipping increased 10 percent between 2012 and 2018 and are projected to increase by another 50 percent by 2050 if no additional actions are taken. Transitioning port and shipping activities toward low and zero-emissions options is a critical part of the urgent action needed to prevent the most devastating effects of warming beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius and will require efforts at a global scale.

Through the strategy framework, Northwest ports recognize their role in helping limit global warming and that continually reducing diesel emissions is critical for the health of local communities, especially in areas where environmental health disparities exist. Seaport-related activities contribute to regional and local air pollutant concentrations. Lower-income communities and communities of color are often located closer to pollution sources, amplifying the importance of improving air quality to advance social equity and environmental justice in communities adjacent to port activity.

Progress toward these objectives continues to be reported on and published in annual implementation reports. Air pollutant and GHG emissions from each sector are measured every five years in the Puget Sound Maritime Air Emissions Inventory for U.S. ports and in a port-wide inventory conducted by Vancouver Fraser Port Authority.

The Northwest ports will each release port-specific plans to implement the 2020 strategy vision and objectives across their unique operations and businesses and will continue to report annually on the progress. Port-specific implementation plans enable ports to identify, prioritize, and focus resources on actions in a way that is strategic and relevant to their business and policy contexts, and the regions where they operate while still maintaining the long-standing collaborative effort.

Finally, ports cannot achieve this vision alone. The Northwest ports look forward to continuing to collaborate with industry, governments, non-profits, communities, and other ports and partners to implement the strategy and advance toward a zero-emissions future.

– The Northwest Seaport Alliance

By Professional Mariner Staff