The sustainable U.S. portby Peter Diehm on 2012-01-25 06:41:14
For United States ports there are currently several hot topics for the future. It appears a lot of Southern and East Coast ports are preparing for the finishing of the Panama Canal expansion project which should enable larger New Panmex container vessels (up to 13,000 TEU’s up from only 5,000 TEU’s currently) from the Far East passing through the canal. Question is will the United States importers from the Far East use the canal to go “all water” to the East Coast or will they still direct their freight to the West Coast ports and transport using trucks or rail cross the country? Their decision will play a big factor in how steamship lines will direct their ships.
How will the American Marine Highway develop? Will it prosper and take trucks off the roads? Or will the Jones Act, which forces the vessels used on the highway to be made in the USA slow down its development. Will foreign made vessels be allowed on the highway as it develops? Will shippers shift to intermodal means of transportation to ship loads from ports like New Orleans via vessel up to the port of New York, which is actually one of the ways in which the worldwide container traffic started 50-60 years ago.
Will pressure from NGO’s regarding clean air around ports increase? Will there be new regulations from EPA? Will there be a carbon tax or a cap and trade program?
Overall how can ports get a competitive advantage? Many ports have already improved their infrastructure to be able to handle the larger vessels. By becoming more sustainable ports can add another significant competitive edge.
Paul Page, Editorial Director of the Journal of Commerce stated: “The Los Angeles-Long Beach Clean Air Action Plan launched the port industry's green revolution in 2006. Five years later, the improvements are far beyond what the Southern California ports' strongest critics, and their biggest backers, planned for or even could have imagined.”
For others who would want to follow now the question is what would such a sustainable port look like?
First, the port would have excellent intermodal connections. The railroad tracks would start right in the port and the infrastructure surrounding the port would allow for the operation of double stacked container trains. Rail tunnels and overhead bridges would be adjusted accordingly. Truckers picking up the containers in the port would come with their own or rented chassis, and thus the waiting time to get the containers would be minimized through more efficient organization. This would reduce the idle time of the trucks and the emissions caused. For people not familiar how it worked for years. Trucks had to get in line to get a chassis and after that get in line to get a container. All trucks would not be older than 10 years, and would also follow the Long Beach example of the phasing out of older trucks. The Longshoremen Union of the port and port management would have a professional relationship and both would uphold sustainability as one of their core values. Almost all port transactions would be handled via a paperless format.
The port would provide excellent tracking of vessels and containers to reduce the wait time of truckers and also provide better planning for importers. The port would also generate its own energy by installing solar panels on the roofs of its building and also operate an offshore wind farm. This would enable the port to provide free electricity to ships so that they can shut off their engines while in port. The passenger vehicles used in the port would be hybrid or electric cars. Port gantry cranes, trucks and forklifts, when not electric would run on natural gas. Drivers would also get special driver training to drive most efficiently. All new buildings would be built to LEED standard with a lot of natural light and a passive house design.
Unused port land would be converted into park or wet lands providing habitat for birds. The port would also be doing several corporate social responsibility projects for the ocean and wetland environments such as hosting school classes and teaching them about oceanic life. A port could also start a partnership with a port in a developing country supporting them with know-how. Another important task would be to reduce waste and improve the rate of recycling. Also not to be forgotten a port could start sustainability education programs for its employees, and also make it available to customers and business partners. Provided that all parties are on the same page communication processes can be improved and inefficiencies cut out. These are just some examples there are lot more possibilities.
Where can ports learn more?
A good source of information is the Clean Ports Act. The Electric Power Research Institute also offers a free white paper on Sustainable Maritime Ports. Please also visit the website of "Carbon Positive which assists port authorities to develop green policies, programs and projects to reduce GHG emissions and to deliver wider environmental and social benefits for ports, shipping and communities." For truckers looking for more information regarding chassis the website of OCEMA has useful information. They published a study on U.S. Intermodal Chassis Operations. They believe that changing the chassis provisioning model to the standard used worldwide will lead to a more efficient, safer, environmentally sound, and cost effective intermodal transport system in the United States."
Please visit www.carpediehm.com for more ideas how to green your supply chain.