The Port of Los Angeles. (Courtesy of Port of Los Angeles)The Port of Los Angeles. (Courtesy of Port of Los Angeles)

California is offering funding for zero-emission projects including repowering ferries, tugboats and towboats with all-electric or fuel cell propulsion and the installation of shore power at berths that serve ocean-going vessels.

The US$35 million available now is expected to be followed by another US$35 million in 2022. The money is part of US$423 million the state will receive from the National VW Environmental Trust. In a landmark settlement, VW is paying US$2.9 billion to the US to mitigate harm from NOx released as a result of the company’s use of illegal emissions testing defeat devices in some diesel passenger cars.

Other states have already given grants for updating vessels operating in US waters to Tier 3 or 4 diesel engines, and California has allocated money for this too, but take-up of the money for zero-emission retrofits is expected to be driven by ports, says Joe Annotti, Vice President, Programs, at Gladstein, Neandross & Associates (GNA), a US-based clean transport and energy consultancy.

US$35 million may not seem a lot of money, says Annotti, but the port vessels likely to be targeted would have Tier 2 or earlier engines. These high horse power engines run almost continuously, so replacing them with zero-emission technology would bring immense air quality benefits.  

Funding for each vessel could be as high as US$2.5 million, but technology options may be limited, warns Annotti, who foresees collaborations between ports, vessel owners and technology providers developing.

The Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have already collaborated, for example, in the Maersk Ocean-Going Vessel Energy Efficiency Measurement Demonstration Project which was finalised last year. Operational data was collected from 12 9,000-TEU container ships after they were retrofited with a redesigned bulbous bow, more efficient propellers, propeller boss cap fins and derated main engines to make them more efficient at lower speeds.

The world’s first hybrid tug, the Carolyn Dorothy, was built at Foss shipyard in 2009, but experience with zero-emission vessels in the US is limited. All American Marine is currently completing construction of a 70-foot fuel cell powered ferry for SWITCH Maritime (SW/TCH) that will operate in the California Bay area. This will be the first hydrogen fuel cell vessel in the US, and the project is partially funded by a US$3 million grant from the California Climate Investments initiative. The fuel cell is being provided by Golden Gate Zero Emission Marine which is also acting as technical and regulatory consultant.

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