California’s proposal to reduce tanker emissions by 80% in port could set a precedent and prove an example to other legislatures
The California Air Regulations Board (CARB) is tasked with developing and adopting specific rules and regulations to achieve good air quality. It is authorised by the state of California but its impact is often global. Many of CARB’s regulations have become the templates for similar regulations nationally and globally. CARB’s current proposal to reduce tanker emissions in port by 80% could set a similar precedent.
The CARB rulemaking process is transparent. Proposed regulations are published, a period of consultation is established and comments are free to view on the internet. This applies to the latest proposal to drastically limit the exhaust emissions from ships calling at ports in California by extending the 2007 Airborne Toxic Control Measure for Auxiliary Diesel Engines Operated on Ocean-Going Vessels At-Berth (generally known as the Ocean-Going Vessels At-Berth regulation) to all vessels.
The 2007 Ocean-Going Vessels At-Berth regulation requires a certain percentage of containerships, cruise ships and reefers to switch off boilers and auxiliary engines in port and plug into the grid-based electricity system (cold ironing). The regulation reaches full implementation in 2020 and the proposal is to extend it to cover all vessel types, including crude oil tankers and product tankers calling at California terminals. It is worth highlighting that LNG-powered engines are included in the list.
Under the proposed regulations, crude oil tankers and product tankers will be required to reduce emissions during cargo operations by 80% to achieve CARB approval. According to law firm ReedSmith, the revised regulation currently provides two options to reduce at-berth emissions:
The alternative control technology includes barge-based capture and control or land-based capture and control (C&C). No such system exists in shipping but from other industries, it would appear to involve hoods placed over the exhaust stacks of the operating auxiliary engines. The exhaust would be captured and treated ashore.
CARB states in the proposal that it has found the implementation of the 2007 Ocean-Going Vessels At-Berth regulation difficult, due to the complex nature of freight logistics and the number of stakeholders involved: “The only way to ensure a vessel is able to connect is by regulating not just the vessel, but also the other parties that have provided, operate, or own the facilities at which vessels call, and thus also control the vessel’s ability to connect, and who are therefore essential to successfully reducing the vessel’s emissions.”
Therefore, the legal impact is not just on the ship, but the port, too. The Port of Long Beach replied to the proposal with a detailed comment outlining what it felt were the safety, engineering, construction and practical considerations. It noted that there is a diesel-electric-powered tanker (believed to be Alaskan Navigator) that uses cold ironing when calling at the T121 Marathon terminal, which was completed at a cost of US$23.7M in 2009. None of the other tankers calling at its ports would be capable of being electrified.
CARB is now looking at the comments and may modify the proposal, but the fundamental purpose will not change. Tanker operators in the Pacific trades will need to keep an eye on this legislation and factor in the cost of hook ups to shore-side electricity into future newbuildings to service the Californian ports.
On 15 April 2020 in Houston, Riviera Maritime Media will be holding its first ever Tanker Shipping & Trade Conference, Americas. The agenda covers evolving regulation, optimising operations and fine-tuning commercial expectations and targets