The US Port of Los Angeles set new record lows for emissions reductions while its container volume reached an all-time high of 9.34 million TEU in 2017.
Emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx), a key component of smog, are down 60 percent compared to 2005 emissions levels, their lowest level to date, according to the port’s 2017 Inventory of Air Emissions which was released on August 23.
Overall, the 2017 findings show the port has maintained or exceeded the clean air progress it has made over the last 12 years, and has now met all of its 2023 Clean Air Action Plan (CAAP) goals. Diesel particulate matter (DPM) remains down 87 percent, and sulfur oxides (SOx) are down 98 percent.
“Our port is driving the global economy forward — and showing the world how we can produce record-breaking growth and protect the environment at the same time,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said.
“Our progress on reducing emissions to just a fraction of our 2005 levels — while we ship more cargo than ever— is proof that our Clean Air Action Plan is working and exceeding expectations,” he added.
To reduce emissions while also significantly increasing cargo volumes, the port had to reduce the average amount of emissions it generates to move each container. Using this type of measurement, the port also posted its best year ever, lowering the average amount of emissions the port generates to move each container of cargo for all eight pollutants tracked by the port’s emissions inventory, including greenhouse gases (GHG), which were down 30 percent per container on average since 2005.
“We’re seeing the combined benefits of our ongoing clean air strategies and increased efficiencies across the supply chain. The results also validate our focus on further reducing NOx and greenhouse gases going forward,” Gene Seroka, Port Executive Director, said.
Based solely on tonnage, though, GHGs are down only 13 percent, which is a result of the substantial increase in activity in 2017 leading to the record cargo volumes.
“Greenhouse gases come from burning fuel. The more cargo we move, the more CO2 emissions we generate, and greater the need to switch to cleaner low-carbon based equipment, while continuing to optimize port operations,” Chris Cannon, Director of Environmental Management for the Port of Los Angeles, explained.
Larger ships carrying more TEUs played a key role in preserving the port’s clean air gains. Container ship calls were down 22 percent while the average number of TEUs per vessel increased 60 percent since 2005. Fewer ship calls also led to fewer harbor craft trips.
The largest ships tend to be new-builds with cleaner engines, another contributor to clean air gains reported in 2017. Additionally, in compliance with California’s progressively stricter shore power requirements, more ships plugged into shore-side electricity instead of burning fuel at berth. Ships that cannot plug in increasingly used alternative technology to capture emissions at berth.
Effective 2017, all ships calling at the port met California and North American Emissions Control Area requirements to use fuel with 0.1 percent or lower sulfur content. More ships also are reducing fuel consumption by slowing down within 40 nautical miles of the port.
As container throughput increases, the port is working to implement more aggressive strategies to maintain its clean air gains and continue to meet the 2023 goals.
North America’s leading seaport by container volume and cargo value, the Port of Los Angeles facilitated USD 284 billion in trade during 2017.