Pacific Environment applauds action by California Air Resources Board to clean up oceangoing vessels

Teresa Bui, Climate Policy Director
Date: June 26, 2024

According to an article by TradeWinds, the California Air Resources Board is exploring regulatory and voluntary measures to reduce emissions by oceangoing vessels in transit to California ports. And that CARB is in the early stages of its work, but typically rulemaking takes three to five years. 

Pyxis Ocean retrofitted with WindWings setting sail for its maiden voyage, August 2023

In California, ship emissions are the top cancer-causing emissions at the port of Oakland, Long Beach and Los Angeles. Long Beach and Los Angeles port-adjacent communities, including West Long Beach, Wilmington, and San Pedro, already experience up to eight years lower life expectancy than the Los Angeles County average.

According to the City of Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services, Black Long Beach residents are hospitalized with asthma at eight times the rate of white residents, and Latinx residents at twice the rate of white residents, who live further from the Port.

Additional impacted portside communities, like Barrio Logan and National City, breathe more diesel pollution than 90% of California communities and children experience up to five times more asthma hospitalizations. Globally, shipping accounts for 265,000 premature deaths and 6.4 cases of childhood asthma annually.

Ninety percent of all goods travel by ship—both for the U.S. and globally.  Greenhouse gas emissions from maritime shipping account for 3% of total global emissions and are projected to increase rapidly over the coming years, up to 17% by 2050 in our increasingly globalized economy. If international shipping was a country, it would rank sixth on the list of largest greenhouse gas emitters globally. 

Switch Maritime’s Sea Change will become San Francisco’s first electric ferry

But the world’s regulator for shipping – the International Maritime Organization – has not moved the industry fast enough to push shipping to meet its share of the 1.5 degree Celsius target. In fact, according to ICCT, international shipping is expected to exceed its share of the 1.5-degree carbon budget by 2032 under the IMO plan, which is less than a decade away. 

This means that CARB has a significant leadership position to play in moving oceangoing shipping away from fossil fuels and cleaning up the industry. Pacific Environment has been advocating for oceangoing vessels to be zero-emissions by 2040 in California’s ports. 

We are witnessing a fast-evolving  technological shift to zero emission for the maritime sector. I just returned from the launch of the e-Wolf which is the first electric tugboat to launch after CARB put regulations in place for Commercial Harbor Craft. We are also looking forward to the first hydrogen-fuel celled ferry to launch in San Francisco soon; it just received its approvals from the U.S. Coast Guard. 

Launch of the e-Wolf at the Port of San Diego this week

The technology is here and is hitting the waters now. CARB’s rules have shown if you provide the blueprint, they will build it. We look forward to working with CARB on the new oceangoing vessels rule and moving the industry to a pollution-free, sustainable future!