Southern California ports launch ambitious drive to cut air emissions

Harbor craft and oceangoing vessels will soon run cleaner at America’s two biggest ports.

The Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach have agreed on a joint five-year program to reduce smog in Southern California. The San Pedro Bay Ports Clean Air Action Plan will require ships, trucks, trains and cargo handlers to reduce diesel emissions, and sulfur and nitrogen compounds by thousands of tons per year. The project aims for a 50-percent reduction in particulate matter in five years.

“Los Angeles and Long Beach are now partners for cleaner air,” said S. David Freeman, president of the Los Angeles Harbor Commission. “We are united with a plan to create green ports under blue skies.”

The main effect on harbor craft is mandatory exhaust reduction. In two years, all harbor vessels must meet the federal government’s so-called Tier 2 engine standards. After the anticipated development of technological improvements to the Tier 3 lower-emissions level, harbor craft would have five years to install those new engines.

“The whole program makes sense,” said Greg Bombard, president of Catalina Express, which operates eight ferries to Santa Catalina Island from both ports.

Seven of Bombard’s vessels have received upgrades with new engines that meet Tier 1 requirements. Those ferries now have four-stroke MTU Detroit Diesel 4000 series engines. Local pollution-mitigation programs funded about half of those upgrade costs. The eighth ferry is scheduled to receive a Tier 2 engine in 2007. It will receive a four-stroke Caterpillar 3512 C series diesel.

“Some of our vessels were built back in the ’90s, and the engines that are out there today are much cleaner,” Bombard said. “We’re doing better with air quality, and vessels have a better source of power to them.”

Dom Yanchunas

By Professional Mariner Staff