October 3, 2022 — Historic supply chain disruptions, COVID-19 restrictions, and record cargo volumes combined to create unprecedented numbers of ships waiting along the coast and congestion at the San Pedro Bay port complex, driving up emissions in 2021. Despite these unprecedented factors, the Port of Long Beach continued to forge ahead in developing industry-leading zero-emissions technology in its quest to become a zero-emissions port.

The Port’s annual emissions inventory report, presented to the Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners on Monday, found diesel soot is down 88%, nitrogen oxides have decreased 49%, and sulfur oxides have decreased 96% compared to 2005. In the prior study year, diesel particulates had decreased 90%, nitrogen oxides 62%, and sulfur oxides 97%. The Port uses a baseline of 2005, the year before the original San Pedro Bay Clean Air Action Plan (CAAP) was adopted.

“Putting it simply, the pandemic created emissions-inducing bottlenecks in the supply chain,” said Long Beach Harbor Commission President Sharon L. Weissman. “No one could have foreseen this once-in-a-lifetime event, but we are not discouraged by this temporary impediment, and our goal to be a zero-emissions port remains.”

The global supply chain congestion last year resulted in a series of events causing the rise in emissions in San Pedro Bay. Specifically, a large number of vessels, mainly container ships, sat at anchor or loitered during cargo surges. When the ships berthed at terminals where a COVID-19 safety agreement capped the size of work groups, the vessels stayed longer. More cargo-handling equipment was used to keep up with the activity, and trucks waited longer in queues as a result of systemwide logistics issues in the Harbor District, across the region, and throughout the nation. Additionally, a higher than usual number of visiting ships were not equipped with shore power, and other ships used less shore power due to a California emergency energy-restriction order event.

“Many of the negative conditions which created this perfect storm have improved,” said Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero. “In recent months, as we’ve left behind the surge of COVID, great strides have been made in reducing the number of ships waiting at anchor. Looking ahead, a vessel queuing program put into place last year to relieve congestion is also expected to have a positive impact on the next inventory.”

The Port continues to meet its 2023 targets for diesel particulate matter and sulfur oxides. In the previous inventory, greenhouse gas emissions were down 10% compared to 2005. In this year’s inventory, greenhouse gas emissions are up 22% since 2005. The increase was mainly due to the unusually large number of oceangoing vessels staying at anchor off the coast.

In November 2021, the shipping industry created a new ship queuing system to largely eliminate ships at anchor by keeping waiting vessels farther off the coast. Today, the number of container ships at anchor in San Pedro Bay is seven, a significant reduction from the peak of 109 ships in January 2022. Preventing congestion will effectively reduce ship emissions in the future.

The Port of Long Beach is known internationally as an industry leader in advancing cleaner cargo movement. In order to tackle greenhouse gases and criteria pollutants, the Port of Long Beach has set a goal of all zero-emissions cargo-handling equipment by 2030 and a zero-emissions drayage truck fleet by 2035. About 17% of the cargo-handling equipment at the Port is electric powered, the largest such fleet in the United States. As a signal of that progress, last month, the Port announced that a trucking company partner will convert to fully-zero emissions by 2025 – 10 years before the 2035 goal. Read more about the project here.

Since 2021, the Port has put in place a number of initiatives to further reduce air pollution in future inventories and build a technological and operational bridge to a zero-emissions future. These include:

  • Launched the Clean Truck Fund Rate, which is generating funding for zero emissions trucks.
  • Committed $150 million to support zero and near-zero emissions demonstration projects inside the port and on Southern California roads. To date, $70 million in grant funding has been secured to help support these projects. To learn more about the Port’s quest to reach zero emissions, visit www.polb.com/zeroemissions.
  • Adopted an updated Green Ship Incentive Program that provides the largest incentive for Tier III vessels, which are the cleanest vessels available today. Last month, the Port of Long Beach also welcomed the West Coast’s first LNG-powered ship, the cleanest commercially available cargo ship.
  • Funded demonstrations of vessel technologies capable of reducing ship-related emissions through the Port’s Technology Advancement Program.

The annual emissions inventory is reviewed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, California Air Resources Board and South Coast Air Quality Management District. Learn about the Port’s emissions inventory here.