Thursday, March 28, 2019

Port Aims at Cleaner Container Handling Equipment as Cargo Levels Fall Back

Hybrid Cranes Supported by Multi-Million Dollar Grant
Shipping News Feature
US – In its latest push towards lowering emissions, the Port of Oakland has announced that containerised cargo handling at its facilities is about to get a whole lot cleaner. As we reported last year the Port has its largest marine terminal converting 13 diesel-powered yard cranes to hybrid power, with the result expected to be an annual 45-tonne reduction in diesel-related air pollutants.

The Port’s first hybrid Rubber Tyred Gantry crane began service March 5 at Oakland International Container Terminal. The rest of the terminal’s retrofitted fleet will come online by next year. Each crane is being equipped with batteries and new, smaller diesel backup engines. Port of Oakland Environmental Planner Catherine Mukai, said:

“This is the Prius of cargo-handling equipment. We’re gratified that our partners at the terminal are taking this step to help clear the air.”

In June 2018, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District awarded the terminal operator, SSA Terminals, a $5 million grant for the hybrid project through its Community Health Protection Grant Program. SSA Terminals is spending about $1 million more to retrofit its cranes. According to the Port, the terminal operator could recoup its cost within two years, thanks to fuel savings. Jim Rice, General Manager at Oakland International Container Terminal, commented:

“We depend heavily on this equipment to keep cargo flowing smoothly. We’re pleased to find a solution that makes us more efficient and at the same time benefits the environment.”

In other news the port’s cargo surge, which it had enjoyed for a six month period, finally slowed last month with total cargo volume in February falling 1.3% against 2018. February import cargo decreased 5%, year-over-year, the Port reported. It was the first decline in import volume since July 2018. February exports were down 8.2%. The shipment of empty containers back to origin destinations increased nearly 7%.

The Port attributed decreased volume mostly to a pause by shippers following a 2018 global trade frenzy. Shipments spiked last year as importers rushed cargo to the US ahead of anticipated tariff increases. Analysts have since predicted an import slowdown due to jammed warehouses and delays in tariff hikes. The Port said export volume has been held down by a strong dollar making exports from the US more expensive for overseas purchasers.

This effect had an influence on the level of vessel calls, particularly from Asia which is the Port of Oakland’s principal market. Oakland reported a 9.7% drop in February vessel calls compared to last year as shipping lines reduced sailings due to the lower freight volumes.