A Breath of Fresh(er) Ocean Air in the Port of LA

 A view of the port and our tour boat from the bay.

A view of the port and our tour boat from the bay.

On a clear Friday afternoon, INFEWS trainees and professors enjoyed a boat tour of the Port of Los Angeles, the nation’s busiest cargo port and one of Los Angeles’ leading employers. They learned about the site’s history and its future outlook on mitigating its contributions to climate change. As the largest stationary source of pollution and congestion in the area, the Port of LA has pledged itself to a myriad of projects to achieve sustainability.

We saw the accomplishment of a 2016 pollution reduction plan boosted by the LA mayor’s office in a terminal that was powered primarily by zero-emission technologies, including electric trucks, yard tractors, and forklifts. In another terminal, we saw a docked cargo ship being powered by Alternative Maritime Power and getting its diesel-powered generators being cleaned. The Port has ambitions to expand this effort, which aims to reduce emissions from anchored contained vessels by plugging them into the region’s electrical grid for power rather than running on their own diesel power. Additionally, the Port has specified cargo ships coming into the port to switch to using liquefied natural gas when getting close to the harbor, followed by a switch to a low-sulfur (and therefore lower greenhouse gas-emitting) bunker fuel inside the Port. (We would still urge the stakeholders at the Port of LA to continue considering alternative sources of power given that liquefied natural gas is still sourced from fossil fuels and releases greenhouse gases!)

The Port has also installed solar panels on some of its buildings. And just last Wednesday, the Port announced a joint effort supported by the California Air Resources Board along with Toyota, Kenworth, and Shell, to create a network for freight transport through ten zero-emissions heavy-duty hydrogen fuel-cell-electric trucks, two hydrogen fuel stations, and four zero-emissions cargo handling equipment.

 UCLA-INFEWS (on much too big of a boat for only 18 of us!) trainees and professors learn about the Port’s sustainability initiatives.

UCLA-INFEWS (on much too big of a boat for only 18 of us!) trainees and professors learn about the Port’s sustainability initiatives.

 A cargo ship docked in the Port, powered by Alternative Maritime Power.

A cargo ship docked in the Port, powered by Alternative Maritime Power.

 Sea lions resting on a buoy in the Port.

Sea lions resting on a buoy in the Port.

Tangible improvements from the Port’s commitment to improving sustainability can already be seen. We could see kelp in the waters, birds on the rocks that jutted out of Terminal Island, and sea lions on the bows of ships and buoys. Together, these signs of life signal a dramatic improvement to water quality in the Port. The Port also has four air quality monitoring stations as a result of the adoption of the 2006 Clean Air Action Plan, in which the Port promised to lower greenhouse gas emissions by 40%, in comparison to levels in 1990, before 2030, and by 80% before 2050.

Learning about the environmental initiatives that the Port of LA has taken on and already implemented helped fuel hope that existing businesses CAN make sustainability economically viable. The breath of fresh ocean air was also immensely appreciated as we continue on learning about the nexus between food, energy, water, and the environment.

Post and pictures submitted by Kathleen Chen and Yi Shen. This blog is part of the INFEWS social media series “FEW and Far Between”.