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Port of Long Beach increases green ship incentive, exempts low-NOx natural gas trucks from Clean Truck Fund Rate

The Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners earlier this month approved changes centered around incorporating the international Environmental Ship Index (ESI) into the Port’s Green Ship Incentive Program, which began in 2012. A voluntary system, the ESI identifies seagoing ships exceeding the current emission standards of the International Maritime Organization.

The Green Ship Incentive Program has helped improve air quality, encouraging shipping lines to send their newest, cleanest oceangoing vessels to the Port of Long Beach. More than $1.7 million in incentives were paid to participants in 2020.


Mediterranean Shipping Company’s MSC Jewel, at the time the cleanest container ship to visit the United States, is pictured here at the Port of Long Beach in August 2019. The MSC Jewel is powered by Tier III diesel engines, which are 75% cleaner than the Tier II standard set by the International Maritime Organization.

Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero noted more than 50 ports worldwide and more than 8,000 vessels participate in the Environmental Ship Index.

The updated program—which takes effect 1 July 2021—will provide the largest incentives to vessels and Tier III ships of any seaport, with three incentive levels:

  • Base Level. Each call with an ESI score from 25 to 47 is eligible for $600.

  • Intermediate Level. Each call with an ESI score from 48 to 53 is eligible for $3,000.

  • Premier Level. Each call with an ESI score of 54 or above is eligible for $6,000.

Vessels with main engines meeting International Maritime Organization’s Tier III standard (no more than 3.4 g NOx/kWh), which require dedicated NOx emission control technologies, are eligible for an additional $3,000 credit, meaning a vessel could be eligible for up to $9,000 on every call.

Low-NOx natural gas trucks. Separately, the Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners voted to approve an exemption from the Clean Truck Fund Rate for the cleanest natural gas-powered trucks, as a transitional step to a future when zero-emissions cargo trucks are widely available.

In considering a rate to encourage the trucking industry to invest in cleaner vehicles and reach zero-emissions for cargo trucking by 2035, the Port of Long Beach and Port of Los Angeles have set a rate of $10 per twenty-foot equivalent unit (TEU)—a standard measure for one 20-foot-long cargo container. The Ports have not yet implemented that rate, but are working on a system with a third-party vendor that will collect the rate for the ports.

Zero-emissions trucks had already been determined to be exempt from the future rate. The action on natural gas trucks by Long Beach is designed to encourage the industry to make an interim step while zero-emissions technology catches up.

These trucks will emit 90% less nitrogen oxides than equivalent vehicles today. The question we were asking ourselves was do we reduce emissions now or do we wait for tomorrow? For our community, and our commitment to the Clean Air Action Plan, the answer is now.

—Mario Cordero

The low nitrogen oxides exemption will apply to trucks picking up or dropping off loaded containers at the Port of Long Beach that use natural gas engines meeting the 0.02 grams of nitrogen oxides per brake horsepower-hour standard. The vehicles must be purchased and registered in the Port Drayage Truck Registry by 31 Dec 2022.

The Clean Air Action Plan (CAAP) has established a goal of zero-emissions trucks by 2035. A key component of the overall strategy to transition to a zero-emissions truck fleet is an updated Clean Truck Program incentivizing the development and adoption of new technology. The Clean Truck Fund rate is expected to generate $80 million in the first year.


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