San Pedro Bay Ports Cargo Movement Aims For ‘Zero Emissions’

Harbor Commissions Plan New Technologies For Trucks, Equipment And Railroads

by Sean Belk, Staff Writer

The Long Beach and Los Angeles harbor commissions held a joint meeting July 7 to discuss implementing, developing and building a “zero-emissions” container movement system at the San Pedro Bay Ports and surrounding areas.

Through new and innovative technologies that have been planned for the last five years, the ports presented a “roadmap” for implementing a system that moves cargo efficiently while burning virtually no fossil fuels and having no tailpipe emissions

The goal of zero emissions is to further reduce emissions and health risk in the air basin and nearby communities. The ports have so far pioneered a Green Port Policy and Clean Air Action Plan, which have helped reduced pollution dramatically over the past decade, according to port staff.

The ports have been a test-bed for innovation, with the Technology Advancement Program (TAP), that allows new technologies to be developed on the working international trade environment. However, the goal is to transition from alternative fuels and hybrid technologies to fully automated fixed gateway systems or all battery electric trucks.

“We’ve spent many years as a leader in environmental stewardship and this is a continuation of the two ports working together,” said Dick Steinke, executive director for the Port of Long Beach. Steinke added the ports must stick to a roadmap to get to zero-emissions capabilities, which should be “feasible, cost effective and workable.”

Christopher Patton, assistant director of environmental management of the Port of Los Angeles, said the segments of port operations where technology is feasible and economically viable involve: short-range road container drayage, terminal container equipment and railroad locomotives.

However, outside of birth operations, such as implementing shore-power, there is no zero emissions capability for ships or harbor craft, he added. Patton pointed out that these two sources may “remain major contributors to health risks for years to come.” He added there is no “single universal zero emissions container system” that’s feasible.

Heather Tomley, environmental specialist for the Port of Long Beach, said servicing the multitude of destinations must be considered when changing to zero emissions for drayage.

Entirely changing the industry has “significant costs” and may be a “significant burden on the industry,” so the economically sustainable approach would be to transition through incremental implementation and where the system would be replaced over time, she added.

Through the TAP program, a Vision Motor Corp. electric truck with fuel cell range extender is being built and to be delivered in the next few weeks, beginning an 18-month demonstration for port related operations, Tomley said. Also, a “Next Generation” lithium ion on-road truck by Balqon is expected to be delivered and start its demonstration in the next few weeks.

Technologies for terminal equipment are to initially focus on electric rubber tire gantries (RTGs) and electric rail mounted gantries (RMGs), with zero emission terminal equipment. Both technologies are through Vision Motor Corp. and Balqon.

For locomotives, it’s much more cost effective, according to Tomley, to utilize existing infrastructure rather than changing to a new system because, on a national level, rail lines across the country would also have to upgrade. She said the port is expected to work collaboratively with rail lines and line haul operators on new technology.

One such technology that looks promising is Linear Synchronous Motors (LSMs), which involves a system adapted to the existing rail bed with a magnetic field propulsion system mounted between rails, she said. The system would have “no conflict with operation of conventional locomotives on the track,” she added. A proposal by San Diego-based General Atomics and the Center for Commercial Deployment of Transportation Technologies at California State University, Long Beach is undergoing development for proof and concept, Tomley said.

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