The air around the Port of Los Angeles promises to be a bit less smoggy from now on. In a new program called Environmental Ship Index, cargo haulers can get cash incentives for sending only their most up to date, cleanest-running ships to the Port. So far, industry giants Evergreen, Hamburg Süd North America, Inc, Hapag-Lloyd AG Maersk Line, Nippon Yusen Kaisha and Yang Ming have signed onto the program.
Managing carbon emissions and other pollutants at global shipping hubs is an issue of growing urgency, as international commerce is projected to increase significantly in the future, bringing more and bigger ships into environments that are already under extreme stress.
Global problem, global solution
International shipping is one of the clearest illustrations of the need for a global response to greenhouse gas management, as the industry itself could not have developed without a high degree of coordination and long term planning between the shipping industry and its host countries.
The United Nations already regulates emissions and other shipping environment issues through the International Maritime Organization. The Environmental Ship Index is a voluntary program that ratchets the standards up a few notches.
In this regard, the U.S. is a bit late to the game. Fourteen ports in Europe have already adopted ESI, which is part of a broader port cleanup project called the International Association of Ports & Harbors’ World Ports Climate Initiative.
The environmental ship standard
On the other hand, California is not too far behind. The Port of Los Angeles will be the first port to adopt ESI in all of North America and the entire Pacific rim.
In addition, new mandatory ship emissions standards will go into effect in California on January 1, 2014, so ESI gives the industry a bit of seed money to invest in new technologies in advance.
Under ESI, ships are rated on their use of low-sulfur fuel, advanced engine technology and energy efficiency, as well as their ability to plug into shore-based power while in a port.
Ships can also qualify for an ESI incentive by participating in demonstration programs designed to test or enhance new technologies for reducing emissions.
Cleaning up shipping ports
Maersk is a good example of a global shipping leader that is working ahead of the problem. Among other initiatives, the Danish company has partnered on a U.S. Navy biofuel test for container ships, and its massive new Triple-E container ships were designed with a cradle-to cradle recycling and reuse "passport" that covers every part of the ship.
In addition to tackling emissions from ships, the U.S. EPA and many other stakeholders are also involved in U.S. port cleanup programs that cut emissions from long-haul trucks, transition container-hauling tractors and other port vehicles to electric vehicle technology, and recapture energy from shipping cranes and other equipment.
Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey.
Tina writes frequently for TriplePundit and other websites, with a focus on military, government and corporate sustainability, clean tech research and emerging energy technologies. She is a former Deputy Director of Public Affairs of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, and author of books and articles on recycling and other conservation themes. She is currently Deputy Director of Public Information for the County of Union, New Jersey. Views expressed here are her own and do not necessarily reflect agency policy.