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Published June 5, 2009 12:10 PM

A World First — Tankers on Shore Power when at Dock

A major source of air pollution in port areas comes from the giant vessels that tie up at their docks to load and unload cargo. That’s because the powerful diesel engines have to run continuously to keep the ships’ equipment and support systems operating. That also means continuous spewing of GHG and diesel particulate emissions into the local air.

A solution to this massive emissions problem has long existed but is not widely implemented because it involves expensive modifications both on-ship and to offshore facilities. It’s called shore power, which allows ships to shut down their diesel engines at berth and literally plug into the landside electricity grid, thus improving air quality.

But slow change is better than no change: BP America and the Port of Long Beach Wednesday opened the world’s first oil tanker terminal equipped with shore power plugs.

The BP terminal on Pier T is actually Long Beach’s second dock equipped with shore power, but it’s the first such facility in the world for “liquid bulk” ships -- vessels that transport large amounts of petroleum and related fuels.

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Reducing air pollution is a major component of the port’s Green Port Policy, adopted in 2005. Also this week Long Beach issued a call for ideas to implement a zero-emission container movement system.

The ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, along with the Alameda Corridor Transportation Authority are seeking new technology to move cargo containers between docks and the Intermodal Container Transfer Facility near West Long Beach, potentially eliminating thousands of short-haul diesel truck trips each day and reducing air pollution.

Proposed technologies might include electric guideways, zero-emission trucks, or electrified rail, all of which use electricity to power the movement of cargo, rather than diesel-fueled trucks.

BP’s shore power installation delivers enough electricity to power about 5,500 homes — up to 8 megawatts at 6,660 volts. The Alaska Tanker Company has equipped two vessels that regularly visit the port to be able to plug into the BP Terminal on Pier T, which supplies local refineries with crude oil. The joint project was completed at a cost of $23.7 million: $17.5 million from the port and $6.2 million from BP.

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