The Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are facing criticism from terminal and vessel operators that their new Clean Air Action Plan (CAAP) of 2017, designed to gradually reduce the use of high emission cargo-handling equipment, is costly and will send more business to other ports.

The Pacific Merchant Shipping Association (PMSA) criticizes the CAAP because it proposes costly initiatives that will further erode the competitiveness of the two ports. The CAAP calls for the elimination of diesel powered trucks and cargo-handling equipment and replacement with low emission equipment. In a September 18th letter, PMSA argued that the two ports emission reduction proposals in the CAAP Update will cost “$14 billion; a cost that undoubtedly understates the true costs of the CAAP and a cost that puts at risk the 1 in 9 jobs in the region that have made the San Pedro Bay ports the economic engine of Southern California.”

Long Beach Container Terminal

A Dutch container terminal designer, who has visited the Port of Long Beach, told AJOT that electric-powered container terminals generating near zero emissions already exist at the new automated Long Beach Container Terminal (LBCT), and could be the model for expanding the use automated terminal operations with electric-powered systems that generate zero emissions.

LBCT utilizes electric-powered cranes and cargo-handling equipment, and has the capacity to handle 18,000 to 20,000 TEU container ships.

LBCT will have the capacity of handling 3.1 million TEUs at an estimated cost of $2 billion when complete. This capability compares to 2016, when the Port of Long Beach handled a total of 6,775,171 million TEUs and the Port of Los Angeles handled 8,856,782 million TEUs.

LBCT will bring the biggest container ships to Southern California and help restore the competitiveness of the Port of Long Beach. The Port of Los Angeles would similarly benefit with an LBCT-type investment in electrically powered automated container handling, the designer noted.

The challenge would be to find the space at the two ports to build out new terminals and phase out the old ones. There would be considerable disruption and many engineering challenges.

At LBCT, the designer notes, the use of automated guided vehicles (AGVs), powered by batteries, creates a more efficient way of picking up and delivering containers to and from the Ship to Shore cranes that unload and load container ships. It is also cheaper and generates zero emissions.

“When these AGVs start to get low on power they go back to their base, where a robotic system switches the old battery for the new battery and then they go back to work. This system is more productive and reliable than a human operated system,” the designer said.

The same holds true for the electric-powered system of stacking and delivering containers through an automated conveyor belt. This moves containers forward until they are ready for pick up by trucks or moved to the on-dock rail lines.

LBCT’s ultimate capacity to handle 3.1 million twenty- foot unit containers per year will be due to the AGVs, the automated stacking, and dual hoist gantry cranes that are manned and highly efficient. These components are electrically powered and generate zero emissions.

The terminal still requires longshore labor to operate cranes, supervise operations and perform maintenance and repair on equipment.

As the Port of Long Beach prepares for handling 18,000 to 20,000 TEU container ships, the Port’s $1.3 billion investment and the $650 million investment by terminal owner, Orient Overseas Container Line will pay off, the designer said.

Ships of over 14,000 TEUs cannot transit the Panama Canal so there will be a competitive advantage to run California to Asia mega-ships once LBCT is fully operational.

Port of Rotterdam

The designer noted that the Port of Rotterdam already operates several automated container terminals, similar to LBCT, at the Maasvlakte 2 site. He notes there have been problems ramping up as complex systems need to be integrated and don’t always mesh at the commencement of operations.

Andy Barrons, senior vice-president for Navis, the California-based software provider for container terminal systems integration, told the Propeller Club of Northern California in September that the new automated container terminals at Rotterdam and Long Beach are working through systems integration issues and will soon be operating at full capacity.

Navis has provided a platform for other software developers to design products that integrate the various terminal operations without mechanical functions. This complements the use of electric power that can generate zero or near zero emissions.

Rotterdam Shortsea Terminals

The Dutch designer said that Rotterdam Shortsea Terminals in Rotterdam (RST) has a throughput of 1.5 million TEUs per year primarily based on 8 wide boom electric powered gantry cranes backed by multi-container carriers that use an electric powered winch system to move 9 containers at a time from the pier to an intermediate point where cranes deposit them onto trucks.

RST employs 250 workers and supervisory personnel. The Southern portion of the terminal is all electric-powered using a 10 Kilovolt power supply that comes from the grid. This powers the cranes and multi-container movers. This results in very low costs for loading and unloading container ships.

RST will be expanding its crane capacity to 5 additional cranes at an adjoining property with ultimate plans for an additional 5 cranes for a total of 10 new cranes with the potential to double its existing capacity.

The terminal handles ships of 700 to 1,000 TEU container ships, but the new terminal expansion will allow cargo-handling of 1000+ TEU ships.

The designer said U.S. ports looking to improve productivity and reduce emissions should adopt the LBCT system. The ports will need to invest $2 billion per terminal, but will have the capacity to handle the largest container ships.