An independent annual study for the Port of Long Beach has found that air pollution levels worsened in 2015 compared to 2014, bucking a long-term trend of improvement.
Port officials said the regression was probably a result of vessel congestion which was partly caused by industrial action at the port in the early part of the year, partly by an increase of 7% in container traffic.
The Port had logged significantly lower air emissions over the course of a decade thanks to its hard work to improve air quality in the vicinity. It had done so by initiatives such as increasing the use of shore power for ships at dock, imposing low-sulphur fuel rules for ships and a Clean Trucks Programme.
These efforts have targeted not only pollution from ships but also from locomotives, trucks, terminal equipment and harbour craft involved in port activity.
But in 2015 the West Coast ports suffered prolonged congestion problems which led to more than usual numbers of ships at anchor waiting to dock, and which hurt the pollution readings.
For example, Long Beach’s reading for diesel particulate matter in 2015 was marginally worse than the previous year – down 84% on the base comparison year of 2005, whereas 2014’s reading was down 85% on the base year.
Port of Long Beach is the second-busiest container port in the US after its nearby neighbour the Port of Los Angeles. Between them the two ports are the main West Coast gateway for hundreds of billions of dollars of annual trade with Asia.