China Shipping diverting cargo from LA port to Long Beach because of environmental restrictions, LA port chief says

Jun 19, 2017

China Cosco Shipping Corp., the world’s fourth largest shipping line, is diverting its cargo away from the Port of Los Angeles to its competitor in Long Beach because of more lax environmental rules at its terminal there, the chief of the L.A. port said Thursday.

The Chinese company, one of the most important players in the twin port complex, “made a strategic decision to move cargo away from our Berth 100 Port of Los Angeles to their terminal in Long Beach because they have less stringent mitigation measures at that facility,” Gene Seroka told the Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners.

Representatives of China Shipping could not be reached for comment.

The announcement came a day before Los Angeles was set to release a much-anticipated environmental report stemming from a 2001 lawsuit involving China Shipping L.A. terminal expansion. Environmentalists hope the new draft EIR will force the carrier to impose anti-pollution measures that can be costly.

David Pettit, a lawyer at the Natural Resources Defense Council, which brought the lawsuit on behalf of residents and local groups, said he fears the new plan will be “a lot of big talk and no enforceability.”

The more than 15-year-old lawsuit had imposed tough pollution-cutting measures established in an environmental document in 2008. But in 2015, the port revealed several of those clean-air mandates had not been met. Required nondiesel-burning trucks never showed up at the terminal as pledged and ships weren’t plugging in to clean electricity for shore power at the rates required.

At the time, Seroka blamed past management and noted that some of the demands couldn’t be met because of cost and technology.

Pettit fears Seroka’s comments are a prelude to a new plan that will lack teeth and not demand speedy cleanup efforts.

“The narrative is going to be we can’t do everything that environmentalists want us to do because it’s going to cost jobs and money,” he said.

For Long Beach, which saw cargo container volumes plummet last year after one of its largest tenants went belly up, news of China Shipping’s shift was welcome.

“It’s a huge win for the Port of Long Beach,” said Lori Ann Guzman, president of Long Beach’s harbor commission. “We are known as the green port, to suggest that we have less stringent environmental standards is inaccurate. We have superior customer service and an outstanding relationship with the clients. This is a testament to that.”

While both ports adhere to clean air goals to decrease smog-forming emissions from diesel engines, newly expanded or modified terminals have additional rules.

That’s part of the reason Seroka can make the claim that Long Beach’s terminal doesn’t have the same environmental restrictions. The Long Beach terminal hasn’t sought an expansion for more than two decades, officials said. And because of that, it’s not subject to more regulations. On the flip side, the Los Angeles terminal China Shipping used was subject to new rules because of the lawsuit.

Heather Tomely, Long Beach ports director of environmental planning, points out that Pier J, where the carrier will send it cargo, is sharing in a $9.7 million grant to replace all nine of the diesel-powered cranes with zero-emission electric models.

Seroka’s jab at Long Beach reveals the intense competition between the two ports just days after the mayors of Los Angeles and Long Beach put on a united front dubbing themselves the “climate mayors” and promising to move toward zero emissions in port operations by 2035.

It also highlighted a larger debate stirring at the port: What will be the true cost of turning the nation’s busiest port complex into its cleanest as well?

“An awful lot of pressure is going to fall on both ports,” said Jock O’Connell, an international trade adviser at Beacon Economics. “Everyone fears as environmental restrictions become more stringent and the cost of compliance goes up, the ports will become less competitive.”

Already there are signs that ships formerly calling on West Coast ports are now going through the newly expanded Panama Canal.

Source: Long Beach Press Telegram

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