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Ports of LA and Long Beach Introduce Draft Comprehensive Clean Air Action Plan

Baseline emission sources for both ports. Click to enlarge.

The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have introduced a draft of the San Pedro Bay Ports Clean Air Action Plan, a comprehensive plan aimed at significantly reducing the health risks posed by air pollution from port-related ships, trains, trucks, terminal equipment and harbor craft.

The Plan proposes hundreds of millions of dollars in investments by the ports, the local air district, the state, and port-related industry to cut particulate matter (PM) pollution from all port-related sources by more than 50% within the next five years.

Measures to be implemented under the plan also will reduce smog-forming NOx emissions by more than 45%, and will also result in reductions of other harmful air emissions such as sulfur oxides (SOx).

The plan proposes specific standards for each major source of emissions:

  • Aerial_spbayports
    Aerial view of the ports.
    Heavy-duty vehicles/Trucks. By the end of 2011, all trucks calling at the ports frequently or semi-frequently—some 16,800 trucks out of a total fleet of about 40,000 serving the ports—will have to meet or beat the EPA 2007 on-road PM emissions standards (0.01 g/bhp-hr for PM) and be the cleanest available NOx at the time of replacement or retrofit.

    To eliminate the dirty diesels, the ports will join with the state and local agencies to finance and pursue funding channels to help finance a new generation of clean or retrofitted vehicles. The ports, along with the South Coast Air Quality Management District, propose to allocate more than $200 million toward this specific effort.

  • Ocean-going vessels. The ships are the largest single emissions source, and the plan proposes a number of specific standards, including:

    • 100% compliance with the Vessel Speed Reduction Program [initially out to a distance of 20 nautical miles (nm) from Point Fermin, and expanded to 40 nm].

    • Use of 0.2% (2,000 ppm) or lower sulfur Marine Gas Oil (MGO) fuel in vessel auxiliary and main engines at berth and out to a distance of 20 nm from Point Fermin, and expanded to 40 nm, or equivalent reduction.

    • Use of shore-power (or equivalent) for hotelling emissions implemented at all major container, selected liquid bulk, and cruise terminals in POLA (Port of Los Angeles) within five to ten years and at all container terminals and one crude oil terminal in POLB (Port of Long Beach) within ten years (the implementation time difference being due to the Port of Long Beach’s more extensive infrastructure development schedule).

    • The use of NOx and PM control devices on auxiliary and main engines mandated on new vessel builds and existing frequent callers.

  • Cargo Handling Equipment. Beginning in 2007, all Cargo Handling Equipment (CHE) purchases must meet one of the following performance standards: Cleanest available NOx alternative-fueled engine, meeting 0.01 g/bhp-hr for PM, available at time of purchase, or Cleanest available NOx diesel-fueled engine, meeting 0.01 g/bhp-hr for PM, available at time of purchase. By the end of 2011, all remaining CHE must meet the EPA Tier 4 engine standards.

  • Harbor Craft. By the second year of the plan, all Harbor Craft (HC) home-based at San Pedro Bay Ports will meet EPA Tier 2 for harbor craft or equivalent reductions. By the fifth year, all previously repowered HC home-based at San Pedro Bay Ports will be retrofitted with the most effective CARB verified NOx and/or PM emissions reduction technologies.

    When Tier 3 engines become available, within five years all HC home-based at San Pedro Bay Ports will be repowered with the new engines.

  • Railroad Locomotives. By 2008, all existing switch engines in the Ports shall be replaced with Tier 2 engines equipped with 15-minute idling devices and shall use emulsified fuels as available.

    By 2011, all diesel-powered line-haul locomotives entering the San Pedro Bay Ports shall meet or be cleaner than EPA Tier 2 rail standards, with use of after-treatment controls and Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel (ULSD). Any new switch engine acquired after the initial Pacific Harbor Line replacement must meet EPA Tier 3 standards or equivalent to 3 grams NOx/bhp-hr and 0.023 g PM/bhp-hr.

    Any new rail yard developed at the San Pedro Bay Ports, or any rail yard significantly redesigned, shall be required to operate the cleanest locomotive technologies currently available (alternative-fueled locomotives, hybrid, electric, multi-engine generator set, etc.), use yard equipment meeting the cargo handling equipment standards specified above, and will be serviced only by the cleanest commercially available heavy-duty trucks meeting or exceeding the EPA 2007 onroad emissions standards.

Without the Clean Air Action Plan, much of the cargo handling equipment not affected by the California Air Resource Board’s recently adopted cargo-handling equipment regulation would be allowed to operate at current emission levels until it wears out. Under the Clean Air Action Plan, diesel PM from all port-related sources would be reduced by a total of 1,200 tons a year and NOx would be reduced by 12,000 tons a year.

Following a 30-day period for public review, then subsequent staff revisions to the Plan (as appropriate), the Boards of Harbor Commissioners at both ports will vote on whether to adopt the Clean Air Action Plan and its proposed lease requirements, tariff changes and incentives.

The ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles are the two largest container seaports in the United States, moving more than $260 billion a year in trade and more than 40% of the nation’s containerized cargo. Taken together, the adjacent ports would be the fifth-largest container port in the world. The ships, trucks, trains and other diesel-powered equipment and craft at the ports are major sources of air pollution in a region that already has some of the worst air quality in the nation.

The San Pedro Bay Ports Clean Air Action Plan, released in draft for public review and comments, was created with the cooperation and participation of the staff of the South Coast Air Quality Management District, California Air Resources Board and US Environmental Protection Agency.

Shortly after the announcement of the plan, Clean Energy, a leading US supplier of liquefied and compressed natural gas (LNG and CNG) vehicle fuel and related services, pledged to build three new natural gas fueling stations that will be conveniently accessible to cargo container truckers serving the Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach. In addition, Clean Energy will offer special financing packages to fleets and independent owner-operators to help them acquire new natural-gas powered trucks.



Bill Young

Rod Adams, a pronuclear power blogger, has done the preliminary design for a nuclear propulsion system for commercial shipping. (See and Certainly this would be a long range vision but, if adopted, would eventually replace much of the bunker oil burning maritime ships.

Congress has proposed future procurement for the navy to be all nuclear for major vessels, rather than just aircraft carriers and submarines. This is being considered as a cost savings measure.

Has the time come for broad adoption of nuclear propulsion by large maritime vessels?


Not in my book. I have a bit of a problem with the idea of putting nuclear material of floating objects, flagged mostly in foreign countries, with crew from who knows where, subject to piracy on the open seas, and arriving daily at our ports. Somehow the security issue seems more pressing than pollution.

Rafael Seidl

Nuclear is cheap only if someone else is paying for the waste disposal and decomissioning. It makes sense (sort of) for navy vessels because of the space freed up and/or the option to build a smaller hull to begin with. They can also stay out at sea more or less indefinitely as long as they are resupplied with fresh food for the crew.

Wrt cost and especially, proliferation and environmental risks, container and other types of ocean-going civilian ships will continue to be powered by conventional diesel fuels (except LNG tankers). Hyundai is the only major shipbuilder still using screw propellers that are directly attached to the crankshaft of giant two-stroke diesels running at 100 RPM or so. Everyone else uses a gear box because cargo space is even more valuable than fuel economy.

It might make sense to a second look at gas turbines with stirling engine co-generation because it would free up even more space for cargo. At fuill power, hermodynamic efficiency could be higher than for single diesel engines. Part load might be a different story. Continous combustion produces much lower emissions (Esp. NOx) than the intermittent flames fronts of reciprocating engines.

One fly in the ointment is that marine gas turbines are very picky about salt spray in the intake air and sulphur in the fuel. The latter is particularly hard to deal with because bunker oil qualities vary greatly around the world. Note that even the above set of measures calls only for a limit of 2000ppm sulphur in the fuel used within 40 miles of the California coast (cp. 15ppm for ULSD). It is hard (read expensive) to scrub sulphur out of the refinery residue, which pretty much defines bunker oil for most crudes.

Another problem is that there is no world-wide infrastructure for servicing marine gas turbines and stirling motors.


Electric is the lastest in ship Propulsion

Azipod is a podded propulsion system, azimuthing through 360 degrees. It incorporates an electric single- or doublewound AC motor mounted directly on the extremely short propeller shaft. The motor drives a fixed-pitch propeller. The electric motor is controlled by a frequency converter, which produces full nominal torque, available in eitherdirection over the entire speed range. The propeller rpm can be freely optimised according to the varying hydrodynamics of each project.

Queen Mary 2 - electric propulsion system: 4 pods totalling 86MW.

Carnival Liberty cruise ship - electric propulsion system: 2 x 20MW ((courtesy of Fincantieri

Bill Young


I agree, electric power makes for a lot of flexibility but the ship must have a source of electricity for the motors. That could be by either a diesel genset, an oil fired turbine generator or a nuclear generator. The US navy is planning on electric drive for the next generation of aircraft carriers.

Some thoughts on nuclear shipping:

Using Majeasy's number for the QM2, that is the equivalent to 115,000HP. At full throttle, 86MW would consume approximately 7500 gals/hour of bunker oil or approximately 200 gals/mile. (You thought an SUV was bad!)

The QM2 is, of course, not a cargo ship. It is a much faster passenger vessel. Cargo doesn't travel that fast because it can't afford to-it burns too much fuel. If you owned a supertanker full of oil at $70/barrel, wouldn't it be nice to double your speed so that you could haul twice as much? You could with nuclear propulsion because the cost of the added fuel consumption is trivial.

The US navy has lost two nuclear submarines (Thresher and Scorpion-God bless the souls aboard). Neither was lost for a nuclear related cause. There were, and continue to be, no known environmental contamination or other damage from either vessel.

Again, the US navy accidently ran the nuclear submarine, San Francisco, into a submerged uncharted mountain at full speed (probably about 30 mph). Over half the crew was injured and one was killed. The nuclear power plant was undamaged and brought the ship to port.

The risk of piracy is real, as it is with all shipping. It is reduced because the ship would be traveling much faster and harder to board. If you pirate a nuclear powered ship, what are you going to do with it? Any terrorist who screws around with the reactor fuel is going to very quickly get his 70 virgins. You cannot get the reactor to blow itself up. If you could, somehow, get the fuel out, it would not make a nuclear weapon.

Disposal of the spent fuel is equivalent to disposal of any other nuclear fuel. Disposal of the ship at the end of life is more complicated than normal. You can't just drive it up on a beach in India and cut it up with torches. The piece parts with induced radiation will need to be buried as low/intermediate level radiation waste as is now done with decommisioned land based reactors. (Induced radiation is relatively short lived.)

Personally, my biggest concern with commercial nuclear shipping is quality control on the training and liscensing of the reactor operators for third world flagged vessels. I think this is probably manageable with a strengthening of the IAEA.


A little piece of advice: stay away to comment on marine propulsion.

Two-stroke marine diesel engine is a marvel of engineering, producing 100 000+ hp with thermal efficiency of more then 60% for, well, forever. It is by far the most efficient engines produced by humankind. Dimensions of cylinders are up to 1.2 m bore and 3.5 m stroke, and as for any piston engine, RPM is limited to mechanical stress of crankshaft components due to max acceleration during stroke, which translates to 60-120 RPM for this size of cylinder/piston. It complies well with most efficient speed of propulsion propellers for ships of corresponding size, so direct drive is a norm, avoiding price/inefficiency of reduction gear. Engines are universally turbocharged, intercooled, rotation reversible, with pronounced Miller cycle, hydraulically operated crossflow exhaust valves, and most sophisticated electronic control next only to space shuttle. Exhaust heat is used to run sea water distillators, and on modern ships adsorbtion chillers for AC and refrigeration. The fuel they are using is a waste from oil refining, so-called residual fuel with sulfur content of up to 5% and ash content of up to 1.5%. In order to flow, it should be heated to 120-140C, and generally could not be burned for any other transportation purposes, or being residential heating oil, for that matter. In fact, it is just next to hudrone used to make asphalt. Burned at mid-ocean, it is environmentally unpolluting, because all pollutants are settled down to the ocean by precipitation and contribute, well, drop in the ocean content of chemicals. As any diesel engine, it sheet-up itself on partial load, so switch to lighter diesel fuel at mainland approach makes for good economical sense, but is not usually used due to supply inadequacy. THIS is the real point to push for environmental lobby.

Price for huge ocean going cargo ship is about 1/3 of boeing 747 jumbo let, so nuclear or turbine propulsion is out of question for economical reasons. By the way, combustion turbine could not work on diesel fuel, let alone heawy fuel oil, and not only because of turbine blades erosion/contamination (which wery quickly disbalans the rotor and lead to it explosion), but simply because of low speed of combustion of such fuels. This is exactly the reason why US military in order to simplify fuel supply adopted as universal (even for military motorcycles) aviational JP8 (kerosene) fuel, and not diesel fuel.

In passenger ships aircraft-derived turbines and traditional steam turbines are used mostly because diesel engines emit too much noise, vibration, and air pollution. Nuclear power on surface navy ships (for submarines it is just obvious) is used only to increase operational autonomy in remote operational theaters, not for economical reasons. The only class of ships with nuclear propulsion used in the world with still questionable economical benefits is Russian ice breakers, used to lead supply caravans in Russian Arctic to oil-producing regions of north Siberia.

Ocean-going merchant vessels, overwhelmingly owned by Greek companies and operated under Liberian flag could really be seen as piecemeal. In fact typical crew (Briton captain and pilot, Ukrainian engineers, Filipino crew) are masters of their profession and universally Lloyd (GB) inspected (I wish everything will be inspected by their engineers!) ships are extremely sea worthy – other vice it means death in unforgiving marine environment. To give you example, marine vessels are universally and for many years using fuel/oil tank ventilation by inert cooled exhaust to prevent creation of explosive fuel vapors/air mixtures. As you could remember from TWA airlane tragedy, it happened because of worn high tension wires running through air-ventilated wing fuel tanks. This kind of criminal negligence and engineering illiteracy would never happens at high seas.

Rafael Seidl

Andrey -

minor quibble: even the most efficient diesel engines manage only 52% thermodynamic efficiency, at one operating point. 60%+ is only feasible with co-generation.

You are right to point out that ship propulsion is an extremely conservative field, because reliability is a mission-critical safety feature. Besides, production volumes are low compared to passenger cars. It's just a compeletely different world.

Btw: aircraft are not generally designed by illiterate engineers. Crashes are investigated in excruciating detail and any design weaknesses found must be corrected not only in new planes but usually also in the already deployed fleet. The Concorde was retired partly because a particular safety design weakness could not be corrected a posteriori. The space shuttle has now twice nearly gone the way of the Dodo for much the same reason, and may yet do so.

allen zheng

How about this, wind assisted propulsion? If you are traveling poleward of 40 N or S, the winds are strong enough for this to work. This includes the arc route connecting North America to Asia, as well as the North Atlantic sea lanes. The Roaring 40's in the Southern Seas would do as well.

Rod Adams

Andrey, Rafael and Majeasy:

Interesting discussion on marine propulsion as it exists today, but remember the article that initiated the discussion - it talks about new restrictions on air pollution that will add one more significant cost to ships that continue to burn fossil fuel.

While I am fully versed on the short and spotty history of nuclear power in ships outside of naval vessels (the NS Savannah, the Otto Hahn, the Mutsu and a small fleet of Russian icebreakers) I fully believe that there is good reason to believe that well designed and operated atomic engines can pose a significant competitive threat to the venerable marine diesel.

I presented a pretty detailed paper on the subject more than a decade ago for Propulsion 95, a conference sponsored by Marine Log. You can find it at You might also want to read our pages related to commercial ship propulsion at

All of the changes that have occurred in the market since that time have actually increased the strength of the economic equation in favor of atomic engines. Hard headed, conservative decision makers in the marine industry should at least consider the use of a zero emissions atomic engine that can operate for approximately three to five years on a single charge of fuel that costs less than 10% (per BTU) of the current cost of marine grade bunker fuel oil.

In vessels designed for voyages that last more than about a dozen days, the engines also free up cargo space and that advantage increases with increasing voyage length and massively increases if increased speed (with attendant increases in turn around) are useful.

My partners and I have a pretty good understanding of the challenges that we face in introducing our systems to the market; we have been working on our project for nearly fifteen years. However, we are getting closer and closer to overcoming the major hurdles that have slowed our progress. We have team members with lengthy experience in the marine propulsion field. We understand the environment and the customer reluctance, yet we are increasingly confident that we have an excellent alternative to continued oil addiction for a market that currently has no other choices.

I do not want to go into too much detail, but suffice it to say that there is a growing level of experience that provides excellent basis for understanding the cost of waste handling and eventual propulsion system decommissioning.

Rod Adams
President and CEO, Adams Atomic Engines, Inc.

Randal Leavitt

I think that ships should be powered by clean, silent, fission. What bothers me the most about using carbon combustion for ship power is all the filthy handling and storage needed to get the fuel to the ship. The machines used to put fuel into ships are really ugly and dirty - tanks, pipes, tracks, vents, etc. Using uranium or thorium fuel would be so much safer and cleaner!

G. R. L. Cowan

So much safer and cleaner, so much less lucrative for government.

Nuclear seems cheap up front, but with risk, waste disposal, and decommissioning plainly accounted for it's ... really really cheap. Can the filthy tar that Andrey says is clean enough for ships to burn in mid-ocean be taken in mid-ocean for US$2 a barrel? This has been demonstrated for uranium.

The sin taxes City Hall now gets from fossil fuels, it has no hope of getting from uranium, because uranium is too inexpensive and not sufficiently sinful. That is why City Hall tries to deny nuclear's cleanliness and safety cachet.

This leads to a prediction: the QM3 will be full in seasons when other passenger liners aren't, because it will be nuclear.

Bill Young


I doubt that there is much tax collected on bunker oil. (This is a supposition; not a fact.) It is, however, a profitable product line for the oil industry.

Nuclear power and propulsion have two sets of opponents:
1) Those people who genuinely believe that nuclear reactors and the waste is dangerous to society and has an unmanageable legacy. Many of these people also do not differentiate between nuclear fuel for power and nuclear weaponry.
2) Fossil fuel corporations for whom nuclear power is a competitive threat. They are correct that nuclear power is a serious threat to their industries. The fossil fuel industry creates a great deal of misinformation and funds group 1 above as well as direct government lobbying.

IMHO global warming will push the world in the direction of nuclear power. It will be used for power generation, first expanded in parallel with coal and ultimately replacing it. Light duty vehicles will go to PHEV or straight electric. (Hydrogen and fuel cells are a long shot but the government is funding them to justify delayed action on current vehicular consumption). As this discussion string started, transoceanic shipping could be converted to nuclear propulsion. Rail will go primarily electric as in much of Europe. Trucking and aviation are stuck with rising fossil fuel costs.

Also IMHO we will continue to have fluid fossil fuel even if we have reached peak oil. Natural gas prices are as a sufficient level to justify the technology to develop the incredible methane hydrate deposits off both coasts. This may be several years off, however.

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