In a recent Pacific Merchant Shipping Association (PMSA) opinion piece written by economist Jock O’Connell, O’Connell worries that the California Air Resources Board (CARB) may be burdening California ports by failing to make sufficient provision for the challenges of transitioning harbor trucks and marine terminal cargo-handling equipment to zero emissions:
“CARB had already been pressing the state’s logistics industries, including its seaports, to embrace zero emission modes of moving goods. In particular, CARB has targeted the state’s ports, so often labeled by editorialists as the state’s biggest stationary sources of toxic emissions that one might wrongly conclude that the ports have done nothing to improve matters. The remarkable progress the ports have actually made in slashing emissions and the unsympathetic response from the air quality regulators is a testament to the old adage that no good deed goes unpunished.
Adding to the challenge of ensuring that supplies of electricity will be sufficient to meet predictably high levels of demand, state policy has been to focus on the development of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar while diminishing its reliance on power plants that burn fossil fuels or use nuclear reactors. It will be a tricky, changing horses in midstream transition.”
In response, Heather Tomley, Managing Director of Planning and Environmental Affairs, Port of Long Beach, was asked whether sufficient permitting and funding would be available to meet CARB’s proposed Advanced Clean Fleet Regulations for new zero-emission trucks in 2024.
Tomley responded: “At the last CARB meeting… stakeholders were addressing concerns over infrastructure. And we have had this conversation with CARB staff as well. CARB staff needs to represent to their Board they have made that evaluation. It’s definitely been an issue that’s been highlighted and that they’ve focused on. We will have to see what they move forward with. Ultimately, it is a decision that the State is going to be evaluating and making based on the information that they have gathered.”
Proposed 2024 Zero Emission Truck Mandates
The California Air Resources Board proposes Advanced Clean Fleet Regulations that will require new harbor drayage trucks entering commercial fleets in 2024 to be zero emission: “The history of turnover in harbor trucking at the Port is that we see a 15-17% turnover per year on the basis of 23,000 registered harbor trucks.”
Tomley said the Port of Long Beach is working to provide new charging stations for harbor trucks: “One of the challenges meeting this goal is to have sufficient charging stations available for topping off or for overnight charging. The responsibility for this is regionwide in which permit approvals by localities for charging stations will need to be approved and constructed and secondly, there will be a need for sufficient grant funding to finance these installations.
The Port has identified two locations that will provide charging for trucks and there is an RFP (Request for Proposal) for a third location. There will need to be many more charging stations. We know that some companies are already providing charging stations at their locations and that more are planned. This will require permitting and sourcing power from the utility. In addition, there will need to be public facilities available for charging because not all truckers will be able to access company facilities.”
Electrifying Port Operations and Boosting Sustainability Efforts
On the issue of cargo handling equipment at the terminals, there has been substantial progress in testing and evaluating new equipment to meet the goal of zero-emission4 cargo handling equipment (CHEs) by 2030, Tomley said.
She noted that a grant from the U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD) provided the Port of Long Beach with $30.1 million to replace diesel-powered yard tractors with electric-powered yard tractors that move containers to and from rail cars at Long Beach Container Terminal (LBCT). The total requirement is $37.7 million and so the remainder will be provided by LBCT.
The grant will enable the Port of Long Beach to deploy the nation’s largest fleet of manually operated zero-emissions cargo-handling equipment at a single marine terminal. The project will replace diesel yard tractors at Long Beach Container Terminal with approximately 60 electric, human-operated yard tractors. The project at LBCT – which moves more cargo than all but a few U.S. ports annually, at 3.3 million cargo container units – also includes the construction of electric equipment charging stations with energy efficiency-enhancing software, training for operators and maintenance personnel and installation of software equipment to streamline cargo-handling operations within the terminal.
The Port of Long Beach is also seeking funding for zero-emission cargo-handling equipment at its other marine terminals: “We are also seeking funding on behalf of our other terminal operators to try and capture federal funding focused on converting to zero emissions. So, we are very fortunate that there are a number of funding opportunities available right now.”
Tomley cited the value of infrastructure funding for ports coming “with the Biden Infrastructure law and the Inflation Reduction Act and with State funding that is available for this … So, we’re working with our terminal operators to try to put ourselves in a position to be able to compete with that funding and to be able to support the conversions. So, infrastructure funding, zero-emission equipment funding, all of that is greatly needed and very helpful… in order for us to meet our 2030 goal of zero emissions cargo-handling equipment. “
As part of the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles “Clean Air Action Plan (CAAP),” goals were established for zero-emission trucking in 2035 and zero-emission cargo-handling equipment in 2030.