June 29, 2004
To curb high diesel emissions from docked cargo ships, ports around the world are installing electrical outlets, allowing vessels to shut off their diesel-run auxiliary engines. Electric cables can now power on-board operations like refrigeration, lighting, climate control and machinery.
Pollution in ports often spreads to the communities nearby:
- A docked cargo ship can burn seven tons of diesel fuel a day to run its electrical generators.
- Ships docked at the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports emit 13.4 tons of nitrogen oxide per day, equal to 500,000 cars and trucks.
- Ports along the lower Mississippi River, the New York metro area, and in south Texas also rank among those with the dirtiest air.
- Surrounding communities and port workers often have higher rates of respiratory infections and a higher risk of cancer.
Substituting electricity for diesel can be expensive, though. In Juneau, Alaska, industry experts estimate that Carnival Corp.'s Princess Cruises company spends up to $5,000 per day per ship for electricity, compared to the $3,500 a diesel generator would cost.
Using electricity at ports -- also called "cold ironing" -- faces several challenges in becoming the industry standard, say observers: A lack of U.S. and international emissions regulations, cost-effectiveness issues, and questions of who should pay to outfit ports with electrical gear.
Source: Peter Sanders, "Plug-In Ships Could Reduce Port Pollution," Wall Street Journal, June 25, 2004.
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