Cruise operators, along with owners of cargo container, and reefer vessels, will have to "plug in" half their fleet from 2014.
Attendees at the Port of Long Beach Shore Power Summit on Monday have been told that millions of dollars are being spent on the technology also known as cold ironing, in preparation for new rules designed to cut at berth emissions.
From January 1, 2014, California Air Resources Board (CARB) regulations mean that instead of running diesel engines while at berth, vessel operators must "plug in" and use shore-side power for half of all their cargo container, cruise, and reefer vessels.
The regulations will apply in San Diego, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Port Hueneme, San Francisco, and Oakland.
The ship operators must file quarterly reports to ensure compliance, and could face fines of $10,000 to $100,000 per hour for each hour the fleet is out of compliance.
Bob Foster, Mayor, City of Long Beach
Today, ships represent the largest remaining source of pollution at the ports
Opening the summit, President of the Board of Harbor Commissioners, Susan Wise, said that shore power was a step towards its goal of being a zero emissions port, and that "environmental leadership and maintaining a competitive edge can, and indeed must, exist at the same time."
"[Shore power] is vitally important for a number of things, not to mention air quality and the environment," said City of Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster in his opening comments at the summit.
Foster went on to say that since 2005 environmental initiatives have cut pollution from operations by about 75 percent, with a notable decrease coming from the clean trucks programme, which has reduced their diesel emissions by 90 percent.
"Today, ships represent the largest remaining source of pollution at the ports," he said
"Plugging in a typical containership for a day ... is the pollution equivalent of taking 33,000 cars off the road."
Multi-Million Dollar Costs
The Port says it has spent $100 million on dockside power hookups, while one shipper at the event, Matson Navigation Company, Inc. (Matson), said it has already spent $14 million retrofitting its fleet at an average cost of $1.7 million per vessel.
J. Christopher Lytle, Dxecutive Director. Port of Long Beach
This is the start and I think you'll see this spreading.
Those costs have raised concern by some in the industry, who have suggested it would be more effective if the money spent on shore-side power projects was instead spent on cleaning up vessels' auxiliary engines, which would also enable the problem to be addressed at a global level.
T.L. Garrett, vice president of the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association (PMSA) was quoted by the Associated Press as saying: "The controversy that exists is over the expense and over the benefits of that expense ... It's the capital cost and it's very hard over the life of the equipment to pay back that cost."
However J. Christopher Lytle, executive director of the Port of Long Beach, said: "I think the shipping lines understand that this is an idea whose time has come."
"This is the start and I think you'll see this spreading. It just makes sense."