Cargo Handling: Greener Options for West Coast Ports

Port of LA

By Karen Robes Meeks

Worldwide, port authorities are looking for cleaner ways to handle cargo. The ports on the US West Coast are often at the forefront of that effort – investing millions to develop and demonstrate infrastructure and equipment that haven’t been tested anywhere else.

But the COVID-19 pandemic has complicated matters. For example, the Port of Los Angeles began demonstrating BYD electric yard tractors earlier this year that needed to be sent to BYD’s facility in Lancaster. But COVID-19 concerns compelled the company to temporarily close the Lancaster facility, so the port is waiting for the workers to return to the facility so they can make adjustments to the tractors and return them to the terminal for demonstration.
Despite the most recent challenge caused by the pandemic, officials said they are determined to meet their long-term goals to lower emissions.

Port of Los Angeles
The Port of Los Angeles is charging ahead on its joint goal with the Port of Long Beach to reach a zero-emissions cargo-handling equipment fleet by 2030 and is currently involved in more than a dozen demonstration projects toward that effort, including the testing of battery-electric forklifts, yard tractors and rubber-tired gantry cranes.

“It’s important to get the demonstration at the terminals by the people who will use them so that we know how we can implement these moving forward,” said Teresa G. Pisano, marine environmental supervisor for the port. “They’re critical.”

Everport Container Terminal has been the site of several CHE demonstration projects.

“They have the benefit of knowing how the natural gas equipment is working, so it’s nice for us to be able to have comparison data from diesel, electric and natural gas,” Pisano said.

Projects at Everport include two battery-electric top handlers by Taylor Machine Works, Inc. Longtime Mississippi-based manufacturer Taylor – which has been key in the port’s efforts to transition terminal operators to cleaner burning top handlers since implementing the Clean Air Action Plan in 2006 – designed and built the new top handlers, which feature a one-megawatt battery that could run up to 18 hours before a recharge. Each will include a data logger that tracks its performance throughout the 12-month $7.7 million demonstration project ($4.5 million of which comes from a California Energy Commission grant).

“They are the No. 1 provider of top handlers to terminals at the port, which is to say there are more Taylor top handlers operating at the Port of Los Angeles than there are any other particular variety,” said Chris Cannon, director of environmental management at the port.

The equipment was put into regular use in April and early feedback has been good, Pisano said.

At Everport, the port also has been able to demonstrate 20 renewable natural gas yard tractors that were put into use at the end of 2019.
The port is also testing out BYD products: five battery electric yard tractors using a traditional cable plug-in charger and three tractors using smart charger technology that would allow a driver to pull into a parking stall where an arm charger would come out and link up with the tractor so an operator wouldn’t physically have to connect the tractor, Pisano said.

At Pasha terminal, the port is demonstrating four battery electric yard tractors and three battery electric forklifts, while a project to demonstrate 10 battery electric yard tractors using inductive charging at West Basin Container Terminal is currently in the design phase, Pisano said.

Technology advancement is a critical component of the process to get toward zero emissions in 2030 for cargo handling equipment and 2035 for trucks, Cannon said.

“The goals that we set for ourselves are aggressive but doable provided that technology continues to advance,” he said. “We are very committed to doing whatever we can to help to support the advancement of science in order to help move us toward our goals. Our goals for zero emissions are very important for the port and for the region.”

Port of Long Beach
With roughly $160 million worth of projects in the works, the Port of Long Beach and its partners continue to advance its efforts toward sustainable cargo-handling equipment and have begun deploying equipment to marine terminals for demonstration, said Matt Arms, director of environmental planning for the port.

“If everything goes according to plan, then over the coming year, we’re going to really start to get a lot of results from that, and that’s exciting,” he said. “And that will really inform us about those lessons and what works and what doesn’t.”

Three Taylor battery-electric top handlers are currently being tested at Long Beach Container Terminal and SSA Marine at Pier J and operated by ILWU members as part of the port’s Commercialization of POLB Off-Road Technology Demonstration Project.

“We expect these battery-electric top handlers to be able to make it through the daily two-shift cycle before needing a recharge,” Port Executive Director Mario Cordero when the demonstration was first announced. “We’re eager to see the advancements in technology that come from this demonstration, and what it means for the commercialization of this equipment.”

Among the demonstration projects showing promise is electrified rubber-tired gantry cranes at Pier J, Arms said. While the cranes represent a few pieces of equipment at the port, they make up a big part of the port’s emissions profile.

“RTGs are definitely a big target for us,” he said.

The port is also converting diesel cargo-handling equipment into hybrid-powered ones, which are significantly reducing emissions, Arms said.
Meanwhile, developing the infrastructure is just as important as the equipment, Arms said.

For example, chargers for this type of equipment can’t be purchased off the shelf; they need to be developed.

“If you’re trying to electrify one, clearly there’s not a battery today that’s big enough for that,” Arms said. “You need to plug it into the grid. So how do you do that? And so really the technology there is more about how to manage a big extension cord in an active terminal and how do you build that in an active terminal and how you make that work. That’s the complicated part versus sticking that electric motor on it.”

One infrastructure project at the port involves building the infrastructure to support electric CHEs at Total Terminals International’s container terminal at Pier T. The port is working with TTI and the product partners to complete final designs, Arms said.

The demonstrations are being done amid the pandemic, which are causing small delays, Arms said.
For example, some technology developers – where they’re building the equipment – are temporarily shut down or have really limited staffing in their facilities. Monitoring has also been a challenge if people are unable to travel.
“Right now we don’t see anything that’s ringing all the alarms, but we definitely are tracking it and paying close attention to it, working with our partners, especially at the granting agencies to understand what those potential impacts are and monitoring that so we can adjust accordingly,” Arms said.
The mission, however, remains the same.

“The goals are the goals, COVID-19 or not,” Arms said. “We need these emissions reductions.”

The Northwest Seaport Alliance
The Northwest Seaport Alliance – which consists of a marine cargo business partnership between the ports of Seattle and Tacoma – has heavily invested in its cargo handling equipment to handle the biggest container ships and operate in a sustainable manner.

Eight super-post-Panamax cranes manufactured by ZPMC in China are in service at Husky Terminal in Tacoma. The electric cranes – each as tall as the Statue of Liberty – came in two phases: the first set of four arriving in February 2018 and the second in March 2019, culminating about six years of planning to make the terminal ready for the world’s largest vessels. This is in addition to the four diesel-electric straddle carriers delivered in early 2018 at Husky Terminal.

Meanwhile, the ports are exploring the capabilities of other cargo handling equipment. Last summer, the alliance asked BYD to demonstrate to Seattle and Tacoma terminal operators an electric yard truck – a Class 8 yard tractor rated up to a gross 102,000 combined weight that could handle the work done by its diesel counterparts but without the emissions.

The ports are also in the process of buying an electric lift truck for East Blair One Terminal in Tacoma that’s anticipated to come next year, if approved by NWSA Managing Members.

And when electric versions aren’t yet technologically available, the alliance invests in the cleanest diesel cargo handling equipment it can get. Later this summer, two Tier 4 diesel reach stackers are expected to arrive at East Blair One Terminal.

To work toward a goal of creating a zero-emissions cargo-handling equipment fleet, the ports teamed up with the Environmental Defense Fund, a partnership that allowed the ports to create a financial analysis tool for grant applications.

ZPMC – which bases its corporate office for ZPMC NA in Los Angeles and has a satellite/branch office in Tacoma – has a significant footprint on the West Coast.

Besides delivering four new STS cranes to the Port of Tacoma, ZPMC also delivered four new STS cranes to Fenix Marine and two new STS cranes to APM Terminals at the Port of Los Angeles, as well as two new STS cranes to TTI at the Port of Long Beach, said Jeff Rosenberg, vice president of sales and marketing for ZPMC USA. ZPMC also installed new lashing platforms for APM.

“In 12 months’ time, we relocated 20 STS cranes in the LA-LB basin utilizing our SPMTs and crane carrying system,” he said. “These crane moves were performed for the following customers: Fenix Marine, APMT and Surf City Steel. In addition, our crews are handling service and warranty calls up & down the West Coast.”

While the largest impact by COVID-19 has been the late delivery of equipment and parts from overseas, “our local projects have been deemed essential, so our crews have continued our work, doing our best to maintain social distancing,” he said.

In August, the company will be mobilizing Tacoma to begin a four-crane raising project for Everport Terminal Services. This summer, ZMPC will also begin the next phase of the lashing platform work at APMT.

Port of Everett
Over the last 10 years, the Port of Everett has invested more than $125 million toward modernizing its maritime infrastructure to meet market demand, which includes seeking ways to expand cargo handling capabilities and service offerings.

That includes the port’s $57 million South Terminal Modernization, which involves bolstering the 700-foot South Terminal wharf to better accommodate larger ships and heavier cargoes typical of its service niche, including aerospace parts for the new 777X.

The project – a key part of the port’s overall seaport modernization effort – also boosted on-dock rail capacity, enhanced wharf electrical and includes two Post-Panamax, 100-foot gauge gantry cranes to the port’s CHE inventory.

The two 214-foot-tall electric cranes – which the port acquired from Everport Terminal for $1 each and spent about nearly $6 million to transport – are currently in upland storage as they undergo system upgrades before they will be moved to the wharf this fall. The port is currently seeking bids for the relocation project.

“These cranes are a game changer for the Port and our region,” said Carl Wollebek, Chief Operating Officer for the Port of Everett. “Putting them into use at our upgraded terminal keeps us nimble and competitive as the industry continues to send larger ships and heavier cargo to our docks.”

By Pacific Maritime