The ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles originally approved the Clean Air Action Plan (CAAP) in 2006 as a means to significantly reduce pollution produced by port operations. In November of last year, the ports updated the plan with ambitious goals, including converting all container terminal operations to zero emissions by 2030. The CAAP efforts have been driving technological innovation since inception, which continues today through development and demonstration.


“Both ports have been putting funding into developing and demonstrating advanced technologies,” Heather Tomley, director of environmental planning at Port of Long Beach (POLB), said. “We have a long history of working on these types of demonstrations and have been able to move forward with a lot of different pieces of equipment, putting them out in the real world at terminals or with the trucking companies.”


For the past several years, POLB has put an emphasis on testing zero-emissions technologies for terminal equipment and on-road trucks, Tomley explained. One of the port’s largest programs currently is the conversion of terminal equipment, including yard tractors, top picks (large forklift-type vehicles used for moving and stacking containers) and rubber-tire gantry cranes. Converting these three pieces of equipment at container terminals would drastically reduce emissions, Tomley said.


Through various grant opportunities, Tomley said the port is moving forward with demonstration projects with several technology developers and terminal operators to test zero-emission versions of those key pieces of container terminal equipment. A large focus is being put on battery-electric technology; however, fuel cell yard tractors will also be tested. Additionally, a rubber-tire gantry crane to physically plug into the electrical grid will be tested.


“Our goal right now is to work with as many different operators as possible so that everybody has the opportunity to test these pieces of equipment and get an understanding of how they work and how they can be better integrated into their operations going forward,” Tomley said. “We’re really looking forward to the input that we’re going to get from the operators because that’s going to help us continue working with the technology developers to make sure we’re developing equipment that really meets [the operators’] needs.”


Contracts are being finalized for these projects and Tomley said she expects the equipment to be deployed next year for demonstrations to begin. However, before the equipment can be utilized at the port, infrastructure must be put into place to support it.


To support such a large increase in the demand for electrical power, the port must expand its infrastructure, Tomley explained. She said that, while the equipment is being developed and built, Southern California Edison and port engineers will install additional electrical infrastructure, including charging stations. The port recently received a grant from the California Energy Commission to install additional electrical infrastructure at one container terminal specifically for charging traditional plug-in battery forklifts, the type most often used in warehouses.


The Port of Los Angeles (POLA) is currently working on implementing the same technologies at its container terminals, according to Christopher Cannon, director of environmental management at POLA. He said the Pasha terminal is currently testing zero-emission yard trucks and that the Everport terminal will likely begin demonstration battery-electric yard trucks and top picks later this year. He said the timeline for building equipment and infrastructure upgrades is similar to that of POLB, with deployment expected later this year or early next year.


“We’re currently doing a power and electrical demand and needs study through our engineering division in order to evaluate the infrastructure requirements at all of our terminals for zero emission and other types of clean technologies,” Cannon said. “The equipment and the infrastructure are currently being purchased and installed. . . . the cost of the infrastructure is almost as much as the cost of the equipment itself.”


The updated CAAP identified a cost of up to $14 billion, which covers the development and construction of new technologies, as well as the infrastructure to support it at both ports. Cannon said costs will likely go down over time as technologies are developed and economies of scale and other commercial advantages come into play.


Though POLA has the largest number of berths set up for shore power than any other port in the world at 25 terminals, Cannon said both ports are working to expand efforts to minimize emissions from berthed ships. To accomplish this, the ports have previously demonstrated a system where hoods are placed above a vessel’s stacks to capture emissions. Also, the ports recently released a request for proposals (RFP) to identify additional technologies to lower emissions of ships at berth. The target of the new technologies will be vessels that are not currently subject to shore power regulations, including bulk ships, tankers and car carriers.


On April 17, the ports released an RFP that includes green technologies for trucks, cargo-handling equipment and locomotives to reduce emissions.

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