While ocean ship operators were digesting news of a pending major rule from the Environmental Protection Agency on vessel air emissions, another vision of the future occurred at the Port of Long Beach, CA.
A Toyota car carrier partially powered by solar energy docked at the port. The Auriga Leader is the first such green-technology-equipped car carrier to ply the high seas and it’s about time.
The vessel is outfitted with 328 solar panels that can generate up to 40 kilowatts, decreasing demand on the ship’s diesel-powered auxiliary engines for electricity, thus cutting down pollution, the port says.
The ship’s photovoltaic panels are part of a technology demonstration project by port customer Toyota Motor Corporation and NYK Line, the ship’s owner and operator. The 656-foot, 60,000-ton vessel can carry up to 6,200 cars and is used to transport Toyota, Lexus and Scion vehicles from Toyota factories in Japan to Long Beach. The solar panels made their debut at Japan’s Port of Kobe last December.
“The Auriga Leader is a perfect example of how the maritime industry is voluntarily finding new and innovative ways to be responsible stewards of the environment,” said Port of Long Beach Executive Director Richard D. Steinke. “Our port is a regional economic engine and in order to stay competitive, we must ensure that our growth is sustainable. That means minimizing the impact of shipping operations on the environment.”
But while that was happening, the EPA was proposing rules designed to slash harmful air emissions from ocean going cargo vessels, which are the among largest category of polluters in port and coastal regions. It likely will make emission controls a lot less voluntary.
The agency says the rule under the Clean Air Act will set “tough engine and fuel standards” for U.S. vessels that will “harmonize with international standards and lead to significant air quality improvements throughout the country.”
“These emissions are contributing to health, environmental and economic challenges for port communities and others that are miles inland,” says EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “Lowering emissions from American ships will help safeguard our port communities, and demonstrate American leadership in protecting our health and the environment around the globe.”
The rule follows another part of EPA’s strategy, a proposal last March by the U.S. and Canada to designate thousands of miles of the two countries’ coasts as an Emission Control Area (ECA). The International Maritime Organization (IMO), a United Nations agency, begins consideration of the ECA plan later this month, which would result in stringent standards for large ships operating within 200 nautical miles of the coasts of Canada and the United States.
Air pollution from large ships, such as oil tankers, cargo and passenger ships, is expected to grow rapidly as port traffic increases. By 2030, the domestic and international strategies are expected to reduce annual emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) from large marine diesel engines by about 1.2 million tons and particulate matter (PM) emissions by about 143,000 tons.
When fully implemented, EPA says the coordinated effort would reduce NOx emissions by 80 percent and PM emissions by 85 percent compared to current emissions.
It also says the emission reductions from the proposal would yield “significant health and welfare benefits” that would span beyond U.S. ports and coastlines, reaching inland areas.
EPA estimates that by 2030, this effort would prevent between 13,000 and 33,000 premature deaths, 1.5 million workdays lost, and 10 million minor restricted-activity days. The estimated annual health benefits in 2030 as a result of reduced air pollution are valued between $110 and $280 billion at an annual projected cost of approximately $3.1 billion – as high as a 90-to-1 benefit-to-cost ratio.
The proposed rule is designed to reflect the IMO’s stringent ECA standards and broader worldwide program. The rule adds two new tiers of NOX standards and strengthens EPA’s existing diesel fuel program for these ships. It represents another milestone in EPA’s decade-long effort to reduce pollution from both new and existing diesel engines under the National Clean Diesel Campaign.
Information on the components of the coordinated strategy, including the proposed Clean Air Act standards and the ECA designation are posted on the EPA website here.
The pace to clean up vessel emissions and clear port air just got much faster.