The Port of Los Angeles continues to make significant clean air gains, according to the Port’s new 2019 Inventory of Air Emissions report. While cargo volume slipped 1% in calendar year 2019, the Port and its partners succeeded in cutting emissions between 5% and 7% compared with 2018, according to the study released today.
“We can’t defeat the climate crisis until we put the brakes on dangerous emissions — and our Port is an essential anchor in our efforts to forge a more sustainable future,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. “With our steady progress and our unflinching commitment to the Port’s Clean Air Action Plan, we are showing what it takes to turn a key pillar of our economic power into a central plank of a cleaner, greener tomorrow.”
“Every year, it takes all our pollution reduction strategies, ongoing and new, to maintain and improve the dramatic progress we’ve made in cutting pollution,” said Port Executive Director Gene Seroka. “We’re working closely with our industry partners, manufacturers and public agencies to test emerging technologies that will make the next big leap forward.”
The annual inventory measures both year-to-year changes and long-term progress of Port strategies to reduce pollution from all sources related to its operations: ships, trucks, locomotives, harbor craft and cargo handling equipment. The Port’s goals were established in the 2006 Clean Air Action Plan (CAAP) and expanded in its 2010 and 2017 updates. The latest results are based on data collected during calendar year 2019 and reviewed by regional, state and federal air regulatory agencies.
For 2019, the Port either maintained or exceeded its best numbers since the 2005 baseline year for reducing ground-level pollutants associated with health risk and respiratory illness. Emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) are down 62%, the largest drop in NOx from port-related activity since 2005. Sulfur oxides (SOx) and diesel particulate matter (DPM) remain down 98% and 87%, respectively, since 2005.
On a per container basis, the Port’s 2019 clean air progress was even more noteworthy. The Port made headway in almost every category, including greenhouse gases (GHGs) associated with climate change. GHGs, reported in carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e), are down 32% for every 10,000 TEUs since 2005. The only exception was SOx, which remains down 98% on a per container basis since 2014.
“The numbers confirm that as we increase efficiency, the numerous benefits include cleaner air,” Seroka said.
A key efficiency driver is larger ships delivering more containers, resulting in fewer total ship calls and lower emissions. In 2019, 987 containerships brought more than 9.3 million TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) to the Port, down from 1,479 ships bringing nearly 7.5 million TEUs in 2005. The 2019 numbers show a 25% increase in TEUs, a 33% decrease in containership calls, and an 87% increase in the average number of TEUs per call since the baseline year.
Without factoring in container volumes, the Port has cut GHG emissions 15% since 2005. CAAP goals call for the San Pedro Bay port complex to use 100% zero emission off-road cargo handling equipment by 2030 and zero-emission heavy-duty trucks calling at Port terminals by 2035.
“Reducing GHGs to help avoid the worst effects of climate change is critical, and it is going to take worldwide collaboration to do this,” said Port Director of Environmental Management Christopher Cannon. “We are grateful to our private and public sector partners who continue to step up by investing in zero emission technology.”
Eliminating tailpipe emissions from trucks and cargo handling equipment is essential to achieving the Port’s larger goal of reducing all port-related GHG emissions 40% below 1990 levels by 2030 and 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. To get there, the Port is currently leading or participating in 16 regional projects with multiple partners to demonstrate near-zero and zero emissions engines and associated fueling or charging infrastructure.
The projects include testing of: 12 zero emissions Class 8 trucks, including two battery-electric and 10 hydrogen fuel cell models; and 49 near-zero and zero emissions pieces of cargo handling equipment, including 22 electric yard tractors, five zero emissions forklifts, two electric top handlers, and 20 renewable natural gas yard tractors. All demonstrations are conducted in real-world operating conditions in and around the Port.
The 2019 inventory reflects the progress the Port has made in working with terminal operators and innovators to switch out cargo handling equipment for cleaner models. One-third of the 2,038 cranes, yard tractors and other yard equipment in Port service already runs on electricity or alternative fuels.
Converting the drayage fleet is a taller order, which is why the Port has committed to facilitating the testing and development of on-road zero emissions technologies. Meanwhile, the fleet continues to modernize. More than 60% of nearly 17,800 trucks calling at Los Angeles container terminals are model year 2010 or newer, and model year 2014 or newer trucks now make up approximately 30% of the total.
Model year 2014 or newer trucks have the cleanest available diesel engines and pollution control systems. The ongoing turnover builds on the dramatic clean air gains from the Port’s Clean Truck Program, which eliminated all older, dirty trucks from the drayage fleet effective Jan. 1, 2012.
The region for tracking port-related emissions extends far beyond the Port itself. The limit for trucks and trains is their first stop or the South Coast Air Basin boundary line, whichever comes first. For ships, the
tracking area extends out to sea and includes both a 40-nautical mile arc from Point Fermin and the air basin’s over-water boundary.
The Port has already achieved its 2023 CAAP goals for reducing emissions of DPM by 77%, NOx by 59% and SOx by 93%. The Port hit its DPM target in 2012 and its NOx target in 2017. The Port also achieved and surpassed its SOx reduction goal in 2014, its first milestone for reaching the 93% target.
The Port also continues to surpass its 2020 goal of reducing health risk from port-related operations by 85%. After hitting the target in 2014, the Port further lowered the health risk to neighboring communities by 87% where it has remained since 2016. The Port’s continued success depends on maintaining and increasing its clean air gains as cargo volumes rise in the future.
The slight drop in 2019 container volume reflects the initial impact of the trade war, which has slowed imports and exports between China and the U.S. The 2020 inventory, which will be completed in 2021, is expected to show the trade war’s ongoing impacts, as well as the economic turbulence of the global COVID-19 pandemic.
The 2020 data is also expected to reflect the benefits from widespread testing of near-zero and zero emissions equipment at the Port, as well as the full force of California’s original shore power regulations.
Effective Jan. 1, 2020, the requirement for container, reefer and cruise ship fleets to plug into electricity at berth jumped to 80%. Cruise ships accounted for 8% of vessels calling at the Port in 2019, however the prolonged shutdown of the cruise industry due to the increased risk of contracting the virus is also likely to factor into the 2020 outcomes.
“There will be more variables than usual in next year’s report,” said Cannon. “What won’t change is our focus on getting to zero.”