With its extensive initiatives, the Port of Long Beach has been recognized as an environmental leader in the industry.
Environmental activities at the Port also include improving cargo-handling equipment, expanding on-dock rail systems (which eliminate the need for trucks), reducing traffic congestion, protecting wildlife, and experimenting with new technologies. These actions are based on 7 main areas: air, water, wildlife, soil/sediment, sustainability, community engagement, and traffic/efficiency, as part of the Green Port Policy. Only some of the Port’s steps are detailed below.
Long Beach Container Terminal, Inc. (LBCTI), one of the companies leasing space from the Port, has been using diesel oxidation catalysts and low-sulfur diesel fuel in its yard tractors, vehicles that move containerized cargo within the terminal. Now its yard tractors, like some used in other terminals, are equipped with Tier 3 (the strictest emissions standard used now) engines. LBCTI is also among the terminals using some electric cranes to unload cargo from ships. It is also trying out a diesel-electric hybrid crane that reduces emissions by 70-80%, and is testing some LNG and hybrid yard hostlers, or tractors. The Port has also helped fund a hybrid tugboat. Since tugboats idle about 75% of the time, and hybrid tugboats can use diesel when they need power but can rely on electricity the rest of the time, that means emissions can be reduced by 75%. Says Kanter: "projects like that are so exciting."
Experiments with ships" emissions, at least until every ship and terminal is equipped for shore-side electricity, include placing a bonnet with an air scrubber on top of a ship’s smokestack, which reduces emissions by 90% and is known as a "Sock on a Stack."
The Port also began a program known as OffPeak, which keeps gates for trucks open on Saturdays and for more hours during the week, and charges trucks that come to transport goods during the day. Now, about 30-40% of the cargo is transferred at night, which lightens the traffic caused by freight transport on highways.
To protect wildlife, the Port uses mitigation credits, and has put "millions of dollars into wetland restoration," says Wong. They also monitor their waters for chemicals and pollution, most of which comes from upstream. Part of their property is known as a brownfield, or a site that was tainted by industrial use, so they have had to sequester soils that were contaminated years ago, before the land belonged to them. Many people involved with the Port feel strongly against forcing people in other regions or future generations to deal with their problems.
Jobs in Cleaner Trucks
According to Bob Foster, the "let somebody else pay for it" attitude is "horrible public policy." Gail Schwandner, the Dean of Workforce Development at Long Beach City College (LBCC), who has entered into a partnership with the Port, agrees: "We cannot just ship our pollution someplace else. Nobody else is going to want it or stand for it." Schwandner is aware of the other activities going on at the Port, such as the "Sock on a Stack" concept and clean-diesel trains. "Trucks are only one piece of the picture," she says.
Schwandner, however, who is always searching for high-tech jobs that will give someone with a two-year degree a good income and benefits, particularly supports the Port’s Clean Trucks Program. When she heard about the CAAP’s timeline for the Clean Truck program, she took advantage of the opportunity. About 50% of the trucks will be clean diesel and about 50% will use Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) and LNG. With the time limit (October 1, 2008) in mind, she wrote a grant to the state to start an LNG training program at the college. "If LNG is going to be brand new, we should be training people in LNG because there will be a huge gap in jobs," she says. The college has partnered with Kenworth, which builds trucks, and Westport, which produces engines, on this project. The partners see the "critical need" and are having their incumbent workers trained by the college. The college also developed a program with a local high school, Cabrillo High School, which makes it easier for them to receive an Advanced Transportation and Alternative Fuels certificate.
Renee Moilanen, of the Port’s Communications Division, believes that LBCC’s program is "so critical because come October 1, we are fundamentally changing" the truck, engine, and fuel market in Southern California. "To the extent that we can minimize the disruption of industry here, that’s huge for us. The Port created the market and is moving the market," which is both "exciting and scary," she says. "If it hadn’t been for the CAAP/ Green Trucks program
" Schwandner reflects. "I can’t train young people for jobs that I hope are going to be out there. You cannot train people for jobs that don’t exist." Schwandner notes that this "ability to mobilize a workforce is extremely unique. Every other port city in the country (and probably the world) is looking at this."
A Higher Bar for Ports
Kanter asserts that, "We have set the standard in a lot of areas. The CAAP is a worldwide standard. Other ports are unhappy because we are setting the bar pretty high." The Port hopes to be a leader and "a model for other ports," says Wong, mostly because change needs to happen soon. "Port communities around the world are recognizing that [the goods movement industry] poses serious health risks and something has to be done about it," he says.
Foster and other Port leaders have recently taken trips to ports in Asia and Europe in order to exchange information and engage in environmental partnerships. Another "part of that was to tell our customers that we’re serious about this [environmental protection]; this is not a fad, it’s a way of life," says Foster. He adds that, "all over the world, if international trade is going to survive and thrive," all ports will "have to be much more efficient and cleaner."
Making the Right Demands
Consumers need to become more aware of how their demand for products has far-reaching environmental consequences. It would be ideal if stores started publishing where their goods come from, so consumers could make more informed purchases, but right now they have no obligation to do so. Companies can get away with a lot that way. Brian Griley says, "You’d be shocked if I told you the companies" that turned his Green Fleet down because it costs more money and yet are portraying themselves as green.
Steinke also wishes that someday we’d know more about where products come from. "The approach we’d love to get to is a label that reads, ""Brought to you by the Port of Long Beach,"" he says. "But the consumer doesn’t reach that far back and doesn’t care." There could be serious trouble if we don’t start caring, though.
According to that Green Car Congress report, the International Maritime Organization (the regulating body with few environmental standards) estimates that ships" emissions could increase 72% by 2020 if no one makes changes. Luckily, the Port of Long Beach is trying to help build a network of seaports committed to making those changes. There is, however, one troublesome question on people’s minds: with trade growing at such a rapid rate, will we actually see any decrease in pollution?
CONTACTS: The Port of Long Beach; Long Beach Container Terminal; Southern Counties Express Green Fleet
MARA SCHECHTER was an editorial intern at E who attends Georgetown University.