Huge cargo ships often stay at a port for days, in many instances with their diesel engine running. Starting next year, a new requirement will take effect that mandates ships turn off their engines and plug into the power grid during at least half of their port visits. Plugging a large ship into the grid is equivalent to taking 20,000 to 30,000 cars off the road. Hetty Chang reports from Long Beach for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on May 6, 2013.
As part of its commitment to reduce emissions into the environment, the Port of Long Beach is investing millions of dollars in equipment to allow ships to "plug in" to the power grid instead of running idle when they arrive at port.
The port is completing $100 million worth of dockside power hookups so that vessels can turn off their diesel engines and still maintain power to operate while docked at berths.
"Some of the cargo containers are actually refrigerated containers," said Port of Long Beach chief harbor engineer Al Moro. "They take a lot of electricity to keep the produce, or whatever the contents (are), cold."
Shore power, also called cold ironing, allows ships to turn off their auxiliary engines and plug into land-side electricity to power on-board systems, such as lights, pumps and refrigerated containers, according to port officials. With auxiliary engines off, emissions are reduced.
"What that simply means is being able to connect the ship, when it's 'hoteling' in the port, up to power on the grid," said Bob Foster, mayor of Long Beach. "That is the equivalent of taking 33,000 cars off the road."
In January 2014, California's shore power requirement begins, which will require all container vessel fleets making more than 25 visits per year to the Port of Long Beach and Los Angeles to plug into port for 50 percent of their visits. Both ports combined handle more than 10,000 ship calls each year, according to port officials.
"We want to keep it as an economic engine, but we want to make sure the health of our residents is protected," Foster said. "We've proven you can do both."