California clamps down on air pollution from ships at berth

California has issued its largest penalty to date for violations of its at-berth emissions regulation and announced a further strengthening of the same regulation. The state has proposed to include emissions reduction requirements at additional ports and for new types of vessel such as ro-ro vessels and tankers.

On October 7th the California Air Resources Board (CARB) announced a settlement with a shipping company of a penalty of just under $2m.

The penalty related to violations under “Airborne Toxic Control Measure for Auxiliary Diesel Engines Operated on Ocean-Going Vessels At-Berth in a California Port” also known as the At-Berth Regulation.

CARB said that it had discovered through routine audits that the company’s fleet, over a period of three years, had not met the required time limits for switching to shore power or the overall targets for reduced auxiliary engine power generation, whilst berthed.

A similar incident involving another shipping company was reported on September 18th. The company concerned was fined $253,300 for the same type of violations. However, in this case they were only over a period of one year,

Gard has said that, in view of CARB’s recent statements, it advised operators with fleets of container, refrigerated cargo (reefer) or passenger vessels calling at Los Angeles, Long Beach, Oakland, Hueneme, San Francisco, and San Diego to make sure vessels have proper procedures and equipment in place to operate in compliance with California’s At-Berth Regulation, and that crews are trained accordingly.

Gard reminded members that California was currently in the final stages of adopting new requirements that would further reduce air pollution from vessels at berth. On August 27th CARB announced its approval of a new regulation, the “Control Measure for Ocean-Going Vessels At Berth”, also known as the Control Measure. Under this new regulation almost all container, reefer, passenger, ro-ro and tanker vessels visiting larger marine terminals in California would be required to use a CARB approved emissions control strategy that achieves at least an 80% reduction in auxiliary engine emissions during a visit at berth.

Most vessels would still have to use shore power, although alternatives, such as an emissions capture and control system or another onboard emissions control strategy, could be available, said Gard.

While compliance with the new Control Measure by visiting vessels was not envisaged until 2023, the practices, procedures and equipment needed for compliance could be quite elaborate and costly, said Gard, and as a result it advised Members and clients with vessels trading to California ports to familiarize themselves with the new regulation, monitor its progress, and review their options for compliance in anticipation of it entering into force.

The new Control Measure is still awaiting submission to and approval by the Office of Administrative Law. In the meantime, the existing At-Berth Regulation remains in force.

The existing At-Berth Regulation in its entirety is available on the CARB website (link below) and useful guidance regarding its implementation and how to ensure compliance are provided in CARB’s “At Berth FAQs” and “2017 Advisory”.