Historic supply chain disruptions, Covid-19 restrictions, and record cargo volumes combined to create unprecedented numbers of ships waiting along the coast and congestion at the San Pedro Bay port complex, driving up emissions in 2021.
Despite these factors, the Port of Long Beach said it continued to forge ahead in pushing forward its zero-emissions technology as part of its efforts to become a zero-emissions port.
"The Port's annual emissions inventory report, presented to the Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners found diesel soot is down 88%, nitrogen oxides have decreased 49%, and sulfur oxides have decreased 96% compared to 2005," the port said in a statement.
It added that in the prior study year, diesel particulates had decreased 90%, nitrogen oxides 62%, and sulfur oxides 97%.
Source: Port of Long Beach
"Putting it simply, the pandemic created emissions-inducing bottlenecks in the supply chain," said Sharon L. Weissman, Long Beach Harbor Commission President, although noting that the port is not discouraged by this "temporary impediment."
Increased emissions due to Covid-related congestion
"The global supply chain congestion last year resulted in a series of events causing the rise in emissions in San Pedro Bay," the announcement said.
Specifically, it said a large number of vessels, mainly container ships, sat at anchor or loitered during cargo surges.
When the ships berthed at terminals where a Covid-19 safety agreement capped the size of work groups, the vessels stayed longer.
More cargo-handling equipment was also used to keep up with the activity, and trucks waited longer in queues as a result of systemwide logistics issues in the Harbor District, across the region, and throughout the nation.
Additionally, the port noted that a "higher than usual" number of visiting ships were not equipped with shore power, and other ships used less shore power due to a California emergency energy-restriction order event.
"Many of the negative conditions which created this perfect storm have improved," said Mario Cordero, Port of Long Beach executive director, adding that in recent months great strides have been made in reducing the number of ships waiting at anchor.
"Looking ahead, a vessel queuing program put into place last year to relieve congestion is also expected to have a positive impact on the next inventory," Cordero added.
2023 targets continue to be met
Nonetheless, the port noted that it continues to meet its 2023 targets for diesel particulate matter and sulfur oxides.
It said that in the previous inventory, greenhouse gas emissions were down 10% compared to 2005. In this year's inventory, greenhouse gas emissions are up 22% since 2005.
The port noted that the increase was mainly due to the unusually large number of oceangoing vessels staying at anchor off the coast.
In November 2021, the shipping industry created a new ship queuing system to largely eliminate ships at anchor by keeping waiting vessels farther off the coast.
Port of Long Beach noted that today, the number of container ships at anchor in San Pedro Bay is seven, a significant reduction from the peak of 109 ships in January 2022 — and preventing congestion will effectively reduce ship emissions in the future.
In order to tackle greenhouse gases and criteria pollutants, the Port of Long Beach has set a goal of all zero-emissions cargo-handling equipment by 2030 and a zero-emissions drayage truck fleet by 2035.
It said about 17% of the cargo-handling equipment at the Port is electric-powered, the largest such fleet in the United States.
As a signal of that progress, last month, the Port announced that a trucking company partner will convert to fully zero emissions by 2025 – 10 years before the 2035 goal.
Meanwhile, among the initiatives put in place to further reduce air pollution include the launch of the Clean Truck Fund Rate, which is generating funding for zero-emission trucks; and committing US$150 million to support zero and near-zero emissions demonstration projects inside the port and in Southern California roads.
Port of Long Beach said it is also adopting an updated Green Ship Incentive Program that provides the largest incentive for Tier III vessels, which are the cleanest vessels available today.