Help from US regulator underscores vision of eliminating port emissions

Aboard the yacht ‘Andromeda La Dea” in an ABB shore power converter allows seamless connection to or from the shore supply no matter what the frequency or voltage.

As ABB promotes the vision of a “Zero Emissions Port Call,” the Environmental Protection Agency in the United States is getting involved, too.

Just last month, experts on marine emissions gathered for an ABB-led discussion at the SMM shipbuilding, machinery and marine technology fair in Hamburg agreed regulations will play a role in helping ports improve their air quality.

But financial incentives being provided by the EPA to ports across the United States are also helping move things along. This year, the agency is chipping in $4.2 million toward six projects that will benefit from its Diesel Emissions Reduction Program, to help harbors clean up their air by eliminating harmful fumes from diesel engines.

Case in point: Central California’s Port of Hueneme is getting $500,000 to expand its shore-to-ship power project. With it, additional vessels will be able to shut off their auxiliary engines when they dock at this important West Coast deepwater gateway for trade.

‘Giant leap forward’

In what Port of Hueneme officials are calling a “giant leap forward,” they estimate the system will prevent more than 4,200 tons of particulate matter, nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons and carbon dioxide from being released annually by refrigerated vessels calling here.

Since ABB installed the first shore-to-ship power supply system at the port in Gothenburg, Sweden in 2000, the power and automation company has provided similar equipment for vessels and ports around the world, including in the United States at busy harbors including Los Angeles, Long Beach, Seattle, Juneau and Vancouver.

It isn’t merely air quality, either.

For instance, residents of Rotterdam in the Netherlands can sleep easier now that Stena Line’s shore-to-ship power solution from ABB, in place since 2012, has eliminated engine noise and vibrations when its ferries arrive.

ABB’s long experience and understanding of this complex shore-to-ship power interface offers customers a clear choice, said Knut Marquart, ABB’s head of Shore to Ship Power in Zurich, adding this technology – capable of cutting a ship’s port side emissions to zero – is transforming the industry’s image.

“The shore-to-ship solution will be in all ports with high numbers of people who live close to the berths,” Marquart said. “Urbanization in port cities is logically triggering such solutions.”

Broad vision

ABB’s vision of the Zero Emissions Port Call is expansive, with the company also developing solutions to marry battery power with electric propulsion and new marine fuels to strengthen the marine industry’s viability even as it’s under increased pressure to reduce emissions, including in Emission Control Areas in the Baltic Sea, the U.S. and Canadian coasts and in the Caribbean.

“The times are gone when the ships were out to sea and nobody cared,” says Eero Lehtovaara, a former sea captain who now heads ABB’s Marine Design House in Oslo, Norway, and who participated in the SMM discussion last month in Hamburg.

“Especially young people who are starting to look at the future and taking more responsibility want to have a cleaner industry, whatever industry it is,” he said. “We in the shipping industry are not going to be left outside this development.”

Official recognition

Governments like the United States as well as the European Union have recognized that everybody has a stake in this and are putting up a portion of the funding to make the transition possible.

Earlier this year, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said the cash going to the Port of Hueneme and five other ports including in Maryland, Virginia and Washington state sought to marry important ideals of economic growth and environmental stewardship.

“Ports are the main gateway for U.S. trade and are critical to our country’s economic growth, yet the communities surrounding ports face serious environmental challenges,” McCarthy said.

And the EPA program is continuing: Three weeks ago, the U.S. environmental agency announced another $5 million available for projects in the coming year to improve air quality at marine and inland water ports located in areas of poor air quality.

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About the author

John-Philip Miller

I’m the senior editor in ABB’s group corporate communications team, in Zurich. For most of my career I’ve been a reporter, at Bloomberg News in Zurich and then for the last 10 years at The Associated Press in Idaho.
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