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Long Beach starts development of 'green' features to clean air

THE Port of Long Beach is preparing for more growth despite the US-China trade row through heavy investment in reducing its environmental footprint, after having its busiest year on record in 2018 when throughput totalled eight million TEU

Long Beach starts development of 'green' features to clean air

THE Port of Long Beach is preparing for more growth despite the US-China trade row through heavy investment in reducing its environmental footprint, after having its busiest year on record in 2018 when throughput totalled eight million TEU

21 March 2019 - 19:00

THE Port of Long Beach is preparing for more growth despite the US-China trade row through heavy investment in reducing its environmental footprint, after having its busiest year on record in 2018 when throughput totalled eight million TEU.

Port leaders say that the tensions between Donald Trump's administration and Beijing were partly responsible for the boost: American importers front-loaded shipments from China in order to bring goods into the country early, ahead of an expected round of tariffs, reported Fort Lauderdale's Maritime Executive.



However, the trajectory of the port's growth suggests that its performance isn't primarily about short-term geopolitical factors.



Its volumes have been growing steadily since 2010 when the economy began to recover from the recession and its most recent cargo forecast suggests that total TEU numbers at LA and Long Beach will double within two decades, from 17.5 million TEU to 41 million TEU.



To handle all of this new volume, Long Beach is pumping in billions of dollars in upgrades: US$870 million on-dock rail terminal to cut down the number of trucks at its gates, a replacement for the freeway bridge that serves its main terminals and will combine two of its existing terminals into a new 300-acre, all-electric facility.



At Pier B, a new rail yard will add space for rail car staging, which will improve efficiency by giving trains an out-of-the-way place to wait, says programme manager Mark Erickson. It will also enable the port to handle trains of 10,000 feet in length, reducing costs for rail lines and shippers.



This project serves the long-term goal of handling half its cargo by rail since intermodal transport has such a strong competitive advantage for long distance shipments into the American heartland - Chicago, St Louis, even points east of the Mississippi River.



This comes as some of the San Pedro Bay ports' competitors have made inroads in this market using fast rail connections. It is anticipated that improving the speed and cost of service will help Long Beach retain its edge.



On-dock rail also lowers congestion at the gate, reduces traffic on local roads and takes hundreds of diesel-powered trucks out of operation, cutting down emissions. Given that ten per cent of the port's container throughput is currently trucked to off-site rail yards for loading, the Pier B terminal will also lower the environmental impact of current rail operations.



As ships get bigger and economies of scale become more important, Long Beach is redeveloping Piers D, E and F to make one giant three-million-TEU terminal.



The $1.5 billion project will feature green innovations like electric rail-mounted gantry cranes in its stacking yard, shore power connections, LEED environmental standards for buildings, solar panels and storm water pollution prevention infrastructure.



By incentivising ship slowdowns, investing in shore power and banning older diesel trucks from its gates, Long Beach has achieved significant improvements. By 2017, diesel particulates were down by 88 per cent, sulphur oxide (SOx) was down 97 per cent and nitrogen oxide (NOx) was down 56 per cent relative to 2005 levels despite traffic growth.



According to port executive director Mario Cordero, these long-term achievements can be credited to the port's decision to change the way it works with (and for) the community.



Eventually, Long Beach wants to achieve zero emissions by switching to electric vehicles and equipment. It's already working on a trial at Pier T, where the California Energy Commission is helping to fund the installation of fast-charging infrastructure and the purchase of four battery-powered yard tractors.



It will be the world's first heavy-duty, DC fast-charging system for off-road vehicles at a seaport - and it's one more step towards sustainable growth at America's 'green port.'


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