Pacific Maritime Magazine - Marine Business for the Operations Sector

Cargo Handling Operation and Equipment


July 1, 2019

Infrastructure being put in place at Pier J to accommodate zero-emission electric rubber tire gantry cranes (eRTG). Photo courtesy of the Port of Long Beach.

When it comes to cargo-handling equipment, the future is sustainability.

Along the west coast, the next generation of workhorses are guzzling less diesel and using more electricity.

A major reason for the move is demand from major ports in California and Washington, where leaders there are pushing the private sector to reduce the pollution that come from port operations.

And while technology and the rest of the marketplace are still catching up to the ports' clean-air goals, those emission-reducing efforts are beginning to line up with bettering the bottom line, officials said.

For example, when the Northwest Seaport Alliance established its strategy in 2007, its first goal was to lower diesel particulate emissions per ton of cargo by 80 percent and greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent before 2020, using a 2005 baseline.

That initial goal has already been achieved because lowering emissions is also good for business, especially when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions, said Jason Jordan, director of environmental and planning services for the Northwest Seaport Alliance and the Port of Tacoma.

"The great thing about reducing greenhouse gases is that the best way to do that is to be more efficient in your processes, so when we can burn less fuel and save some money on the bottom line from fuel cost, we also can reduce our greenhouse gas emissions," he said. "And so that's been pretty exciting to work with our stakeholders, our marine terminal operators and the supply chain, and help them with idling plans or operationally moving cargo faster through their gateway and they save in cost."


The ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles' newly adopted joint Clean Air Action Plan 2017 update came with some very aggressive goals, including a plan to have up to 100 percent zero emission or near-zero emission cargo handling equipment by 2030.

Because this proposed cargo-handling equipment is emerging technology that is not necessarily commercially available today, the ports committed to conducting a feasibility assessment of the state of technology every three years.

"The purpose of the feasibility study is to take an independent non-biased look – a snapshot in time of what the state of the technology is when it comes to zero and near-zero mission cargo handling equipment – what's available in 2018 and what we think might go to 2021," said Matt Arms, acting Director of Environmental Planning for the Port of Long Beach.

The feasibility assessment looked at five areas: technical viability, commercial availability, operational feasibility, availability of the infrastructure and fuel, and economic workability.

The study looked at what types of cargo handling equipment to evaluate and the ports' annual emissions inventory, which review the emissions coming from it throughout the port complex.

They found that four pieces of equipment – yard tractors, top handlers, rubber tire gantry cranes and then large capacity forklifts – represented 85 percent of the emissions and 90 percent of all the equipment out there, Arms said.

After running them through the five criteria, the study zeroed in on RTG cranes, as well as yard tractors in both battery electric and the natural gas form.

"The take home message at the end of the day is that for technology that we determined to be fully feasible, that means that it could be deployed in large quantities throughout the (San Pedro) Bay – not terminal specific," Arms said. "The near-zero diesel hybrid electric RTG crane is something that can be deployed today at terminals broadly and have a really significant emissions reduction. And so we thought that was fully feasible."

Another one that could be on the cusp of being deployed would be the zero emission electric gantry cranes that could plug into the grid.

"The technology is really viable; it's really about cost and infrastructure," Arms said.

The ports have several mini demonstration projects going on in the Harbor complex right now.

"A lot of them are just getting to the point where equipment is just now starting to get on the terminal, and so over the next two years as this equipment – both the near-zero and the zero emission equipment – is tested in the terminals, the information that we learn about that equipment and the infrastructure will really help us advance our understanding of the feasibility of the equipment and inform our next feasibility study."

Meanwhile, the Port of Hueneme and the Port of Los Angeles have teamed up on a clean air project funded with a $3 million Zero- and Near Zero-Emission Freight Facilities Grant from the California Air Resources Board.

The grant will pay for two electric yard trucks and the infrastructure necessary to charge electric cargo-handling equipment.

"This type of funding allows our ports to continue to lead the world in reducing emissions and implementing green initiatives," said Mary Anne Rooney, president of the Oxnard Harbor District. "It was a pleasure to partner with the Port of Los Angeles on this application, as it is a great example of how two ports, two air districts, two counties, and various private partners can come together to make real positive impacts for our environment and local communities."

Hueneme contributed $200,000 toward the project.

"The projects funded by this grant will lay the foundation for the next phase of green infrastructure and equipment at the port, which will support electric cranes, electric cargo handling equipment, and a hydrogen-fuel-cell truck dedicated to moving our customer's fresh produce to the marketplace," said Port Director and CEO Kristin Decas. "You will be seeing zero-emission avocados, bananas, and pineapples coming out of the port soon!"

The Port of Los Angeles also received $41 million toward not only clean trucks and the first two zero-emissions yard tractors to operate at the Port of Hueneme, but also the expanded use of zero-emissions forklifts at Toyota's port warehouse.

"CARB's $41 million grant was instrumental in launching this project and putting this innovative technology into our rigorous environment," said Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka. "We're extremely proud of our role as a leading test lab for emerging green technology, helping to pave the way for next-generation, zero-emission technology."

Up in Northern California, the Port of Oakland's largest marine terminal, Oakland International Container Terminal, is turning 13 diesel-powered yard cranes to hybrid power, with each crane featuring batteries and new, smaller diesel backup engines.

"This is the Prius of cargo-handling equipment," said Port Environmental Planner Catherine Mukai. "We're gratified that our partners at the terminal are taking this step to help clear the air."

Terminal operator SSA Terminals previously secured a $5 million grant from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District for the hybrid project and is investing another $1 million to retrofit its cranes.

"We depend heavily on this equipment to keep cargo flowing smoothly," said Jim Rice, general manager at Oakland International Container Terminal. "We're pleased to find a solution that makes us more efficient and at the same time benefits the environment."

The new upgraded fleet, which is expected to come online by next year, is expected to lower diesel-related air pollutants by 45 tons annually.


Farther north into the Puget Sound, ports in Washington are gearing up for new cargo-handling equipment.

This summer, the Port of Everett welcomed a pair of electric gantry cranes for its newly modernized South Terminal, which is wired to provide vessels the ability to use shore power.

The electric cranes – which weighed 2,400 tons – took 10 days to load into a barge and seven days for Foss Maritime to bring them to Everett. They will be used once the terminal project is completed and will be key in handling future over-dimensional cargo, including aerospace parts for the new 777X.

"The completion of this upgrade will add another full-service berth at the Port to accommodate project, bulk, breakbulk, high and heavy and containerized cargoes," said Carl Wollebek, the Port's Chief Operating Officer. "We are excited to be able to add this additional option to our current and future customers."

At the Northwest Seaport Alliance, leaders are in the midst of updating its Northwest Ports Clean Air Strategy, a plan established 12 years ago by the port of seattle, Port of Tacoma, and Port Metro Vancouver (Canada).

Pushing for cleaner cargo-handling equipment is playing a significant role in those pollution-curbing efforts, which include plans to have yard tractors, straddle carriers and other equipment outfitted with at least EPA Tier 4-certified engines by next year.

To reach those goals, it will take partnerships with supply chain stakeholders, said Jason Jordan, director of environmental and planning services for the Northwest Seaport Alliance and the Port of Tacoma.

"We recognize we can't do that alone," he said. "We recognize, in fact, that we really will need our partners to participate and assist us with that goal. Because they own the cargo handling equipment, they own the vessels."

On the Pier 4 reconfiguration project on the General Central Peninsula, eight new post Panamax all electric cranes have been purchased. Four have already been commissioned and another four are underway.

"These are some of the biggest cranes on the west coast that will handle some of the biggest vessels that will call, so we're really excited about that," he said.

For new leases, the Northwest Seaport Alliance requires all cargo handling equipment purchases to be Tier 4 compliant.

The NWSA is also working with terminal operators to pilot all electric cargo handling equipment.

"We recognize that the industry is going towards electric and we want to be able to promote and actually see how that equipment functions in our gateway," Jordan said. "And then we actually want to better understand what infrastructure in terms of charging stations and maintenance that we would need to install in order to support that all electric equipment."

In June, the alliance conducted a yard truck pilot demonstration with BYD.

"One of our customers in the north Harbor has already done a demonstration in Southern California, so we're excited to kind of compare notes with what they've done," Jordan said. "And then we're bringing this pilot to our Pierce County terminal."

The Port of Long Beach is preparing for zero-emission electric rubber tire gantry cranes (eRTG) that will plug into the grid. Photo courtesy of the Port of Long Beach.

Meanwhile, the alliance is hoping to secure a diesel emission reduction act grant to help purchase two hybrid top picks and is also in the process of replacing its fleet of straddle carriers with hybrid versions.

"It's really where our industry's going and I commend our industry for looking for ways where they can reduce their human health impact around diesel and greenhouse gas emissions," Jordan said. "It's steeped in a desire to be more efficient and do the right thing for our customers and for their customers, the cargo owners and for our communities.

"Over the next 20 years, you're going to see some major conversions to all electric. Not only is the industry changing, our suppliers who make the equipment - they're tooling up to be able to do this. And then from a facility side, we're working closely with our marine terminal operators to see what kind of infrastructure we're going to need to be able to support it. And that's pretty exciting. It's a whole different way of looking at how a marine terminal operation might operate."


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