A seagull flies through the Long Beach port complex as the sun sets Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2022. Photo by Brandon Richardson.

As part of a global challenge initiated by the United States and Norway this week, the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles have partnered with the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) to create a green and digital shipping corridor.

The agencies have begun discussions to establish the corridor, which will push the development of low- and zero-carbon fuels as well as digital tools to increase efficiency and support the deployment of greener vessels, according to a joint announcement released Monday.

The collaboration was announced as part of the Green Shipping Challenge, which launched during the World Leaders’ Summit at the 27th United Nations Climate Change Conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, this week. The challenge, which encourages stakeholders to decarbonize the shipping industry, was initiated by the U.S. and Norway.

“Decarbonizing the supply chain is the future of our industry, and partnerships like this on the world’s most important trade route are important for fulfilling that ultimate goal,” Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero said in a statement.

The San Pedro Bay ports—the combined operations of Long Beach and LA—handled 31% of all containerized goods into and out of the U.S. in 2021, according to Port of LA data. Singapore, for its part, was the 17th largest goods trading partner with the U.S., with $57.8 billion in total (imports and exports) goods traded during 2020, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative reports.

The U.S. has a trade deficit with Singapore, meaning it imports more from the Asian country than it exports to it. The trade balance shifted from a $4.8 billion surplus in 2019 to a $3.9 billion deficit in 2020, according to federal data.

The two countries have had a close and relatively smooth trade relationship since the United States-Singapore Free Trade Agreement that took effect on Jan. 1, 2004.

“The trans-Pacific corridor is one of the busiest trade routes in the world,” Teo Eng Dih, chief executive of the MPA, said in a statement. “Through this corridor, we hope to support the long-term objective of decarbonizing global supply chains, complementing efforts undertaken by the industry and the International Maritime Organization to drive the decarbonization and digitalization transition for international shipping.”

The corridor will be developed in partnership with the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, a group of 97 mayors around the world that represent about 8.3% of the world’s population but 25% of the global economy. The group is working to confront climate change and advocates for a Global Green New Deal.

Pacific Environment, a global environmental organization that has been critical of shippers’ contributions to global pollution, on Monday praised the Biden administration—specifically U.S. climate envoy John Kerry—for pushing the challenge.

“As [Kerry] said himself, ‘At Paris, no one talked about shipping,’” Madeline Rose, climate campaign director for the organization, said in a statement. “Pacific Environment is proud of the momentum we see today in building a clean, just, healthy future—and yet, we must all go faster.”

According to the International Maritime Organization, the U.N. agency that regulates international shipping, the industry emitted over 1 billion tons of carbon dioxide in 2018, accounting for nearly 3% of total global CO2 emissions that year. If left unchecked, experts estimate shipping could account for 17% of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 as other industries reduce fossil fuel consumption, according to a Washington Post report.

Monday’s announcement follows in the footsteps of a similar agreement between the ports of LA and Shanghai announced in January of this year. Also in partnership with the C40 Cities, the plan has identical aims: phasing in low- and zero-carbon ships, improving efficiency and reducing pollution, especially near communities.

“Reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the maritime supply chain is essential,” Port of LA Executive Director Gene Seroka said in a statement Monday.

“We’re excited about developing this initiative in the coming months,” Cordero added, “and what it means for making operations more efficient while advancing the fight against global warming.”

Ports of LA, Shanghai announced first trans-Pacific green shipping corridor

Brandon Richardson is a reporter and photojournalist for the Long Beach Business Journal.