Friday, July 13, 2018

West Coast US Container Ports Report on Freight Volumes and Hydrogen vs Electric Handling Tests

Zero Emissions the Target of Environmental Demo as Import Cargo Booms for Fear of Trade War
Shipping News Feature
US – News in from two of the key North American west coast container ports this week of a very different nature. Whilst import freight volumes hit a record high in Oakland, export cargo is down, something seemingly a result of two different factors. Firstly however, as part of its commitment to transition to zero-emissions operations, the Port of Long Beach (POLB) is to use a $5.3 million grant from the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to deploy hydrogen- and electric-powered cargo-handling equipment at two of its shipping terminals.

The funds for the Commercialisation of POLB Off-Road Technology Demonstration Project (C-PORT) is using Long Beach’s place as the country's second-busiest seaport to test the viability of zero-emissions vehicles used on the docks. The demonstration project is part of California Climate Investments, a state-wide initiative that puts billions of cap-and-trade dollars to work aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, strengthening the economy and improving public health and the environment, particularly in disadvantaged communities.

The demonstration will include three cargo-moving vehicles known as ‘top handlers’ with never-before-tested battery-electric systems. The project will also feature a unique, head-to-head comparison of hydrogen fuel cell vs. battery-electric technology in yard trucks. In total, five vehicles will be demonstrated: two battery-electric top handlers at SSA Marine’s Pacific Container Terminal at Pier J; and one fuel cell yard tractor, one battery-electric top handler and one battery-electric yard tractor at Long Beach Container Terminal at Pier E. Harbour Commission President Lou Anne Bynum, commented:

“The progress we’ve made in reducing pollution is a model for seaports everywhere, with diesel emissions alone down almost 90% since we adopted the Clean Air Action Plan in 2005. Still, we are not satisfied. This equipment will further contribute to a cleaner environment for our neighbouring communities.”

The equipment is expected to be put into use to begin the demonstration next year. As part of the project, information about the demonstration will also be integrated into the coursework at the Port-sponsored Academy of Global Logistics at Cabrillo High School to support education and workforce development for new port technologies.

Meanwhile 360 miles north, the Port of Oakland has released figures showing container throughput for June reached an all-time high with 87,297 TEU import boxes passing through, beating the previous monthly record of 84,835 containers set last July. The rise is seen as a combination of two factors, the summer - fall period is traditionally the strongest time for import volumes, whilst a burgeoning trade war as tit for tat tariffs are imposed, with fears that more may follow, means a scramble to beat the increased duty rates. Port of Oakland Maritime Director John Driscoll, commented:

“Retailers have been forecasting a good peak season for containerised imports, so June’s numbers weren’t surprising. But there’s uncertainty over the international trade picture, so we’re taking a wait-and-see approach.”

The picture for exports of course tells a different story, and with those worries over the EU and China taking reciprocal action in the light of US trade bans containerised export volume is down 1.8% through six months of 2018, the Port said. Exports decreased 4.7% in June alone. The Port attributed the decrease to a strong US dollar which makes American goods costlier overseas.

Photo: Hyster is starting to produce a range of electric and hydrogen powered equipment.