Maritime-related air pollutant emissions in Puget Sound decreased in nearly every sector between 2005 and 2016, according to a new report. The results were compiled by the Puget Sound Maritime Air Forum, a committee of seven ports, six government agencies, and three industrial partners.
The Puget Sound Maritime Air Emissions Inventory (PSEI) is an accounting of air emissions from maritime-related equipment operating in the greater Puget Sound region that was first conducted in 2005. Updates are performed every five years to track emissions over time.
Results from the latest inventory showed that air pollutant emissions decreased by up to 97%, depending on the type, including a 69% reduction for fine particles that are harmful to human health.
The inventory was conducted voluntarily to provide a technical foundation for future environmental programs, initiatives, and policy decisions, according to the Port of Seattle. Data about maritime operations and equipment use came from ports, individuals, agencies, and the maritime companies that use vessels and equipment in the area.
The Port of Seattle credits voluntary investments by the maritime industry, government agency efforts, and new regulations for the emissions reductions. Programs and projects included work toward cleaner engines, fuels, and operational efficiency.
Emission reduction initiatives in the Puget Sound region have been wide-ranging. The International Maritime Organization’s projects included an Energy Efficiency Design Index for international shipping that increased ship design efficiency related to energy and emissions. EPA emissions standards were set for marine diesel engines, locomotive engines, and on-road heavy-duty vehicles.
Others adopted emissions reduction strategies as well. BNSF replaced older locomotives with new fuel-efficient models, Tacoma Rail re-powered older locomotives with cleaner fuel-efficient engines, and Union Pacific Railroad limited train speeds and shut down idle locomotives to save fuel.
The Port of Seattle and the Northwest Seaport Alliance established programs that included providing electric ship-to-shore cranes for cargo terminals, offering financial incentives for ships to burn cleaner fuel at berth, and installing diesel particulate filters on port and terminal equipment.
“The really good news about this latest air emissions inventory is that the efforts of marine terminal operators and vessel operators are paying off with cleaner air,” said Captain (ret.) Mike Moore, VP of the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association. He added that in the coming months the association will use the inventory to come up with ways of improving air quality, managing emissions, and operating as efficiently as possible.
Globally, the maritime industry has struggled with emissions. Last year a group of shipping industry leaders met in Bonn for the UN Climate Change Conference. The summit didn’t produce any unanimous decisions about decarbonization, but did surface steps that companies can take to help set the industry on a better course.
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