Air Emissions Spike at LA and Long Beach Ports, Bottlenecks Blamed

The megaship Elenora Maersk docked at the Port of Los Angeles. File photo via Port of LA.

The Los Angeles and Long Beach seaports experienced unprecedented spikes in air emissions in 2021, according to newly released air emissions inventories released by the ports Oct. 6.

Both seaports attributed the emissions increase to supply chain bottlenecks brought on by pandemic-driven cargo volumes, resulting in cargo ships waiting at anchor.

In Los Angeles, diesel particulate matter rose 56% in 2021, while nitrogen oxides and sulfur oxides surged by 54% and 145%, respectively, data show.

“The environmental impact of a congested supply chain was evident last year,” Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka remarked. “The backlog of ships sitting outside San Pedro Bay was significant. Fortunately, industry stakeholders took steps in the fourth quarter to reduce at-anchorage vessels.”

Seroka said the port is working to address the issues and improve results.

“We are now providing incentive funding for zero emission trucks, testing a range of new green technologies and working internationally to decarbonize ocean shipping between Los Angeles and China,” he said. “At the same time, we’ve reduced the backlog of ships waiting to enter the San Pedro Bay by more than 90% and are partnering with stakeholders on additional measures to improve cargo fluidity. An efficient supply chain reduces environmental, community and climate impacts.”

Meanwhile, Long Beach saw diesel particulates rise by 90%, while nitrogen oxides were up by 62%, and sulfur oxides by 97% in 2021.

“Putting it simply, the pandemic created emissions-inducing bottlenecks in the supply chain,” Long Beach Harbor Commission President Sharon Weissman said. “No one could have foreseen this once-in-a-lifetime event, but we are not discouraged by this temporary impediment, and our goal to be a zero-emissions port remains.”

By Karen Robes Meeks