Communities, Advocates, Members of Congress Celebrate Strong Commercial Harbor Craft Regulation, First Zero-Emissions Mandate for Ferries in the U.S.

Date: March 24, 2022

Today, members of Congress, conservation, environmental justice, community, and public health advocates celebrate the unanimous adoption by the California Air Resources Board, led by Chair Liane Randolph, of the nation’s strongest commercial harbor craft public health regulation and the first zero-emissions mandate for ferries. 

“Communities neighboring the San Pedro Bay Port Complex are disproportionately affected by toxic air pollution from harbor craft and overwhelmingly burdened by asthma and related health impacts. By strengthening the commercial harbor craft regulation, the State of California has taken an important step to improve public health in port communities, like those I represent in California’s 44th Congressional District, and accelerate the transition to a 100% zero-emissions maritime sector,” said Congresswoman Nanette Diaz Barragán.

Frontline Black, brown, indigenous working class communities have been bearing the brunt of pollution for far too long as we have advocated for decades to shift into technology doesn’t harm our homes and our bodies. As agencies begin to invest and deploy Zero emissions technology, this is an investment in our communities and this reminds us that it is residents at the ground zero of pollution that have helped shift our state to breathe easier. This win isn’t only for those at the frontline, we fight so all folks on occupied California are breathing easier thanks to this advocacy. The fight continues to shift other industries and prioritize the health of the people living in proximity to these sites. La lucha sigue,” said Jan Victor Andasan, Community Organizer for East Yard Communities.

Today’s ruling marks an important step forward in California and the nation’s zero-emission transportation movement, as it is the first major ruling to bring zero-emission boats to our seas. 

“We welcome the adoption of our nation’s strongest commercial harbor craft regulation and the first zero-emissions mandate for ferries,” said Teresa Bui, State Climate Policy Director, Pacific Environment. “The California Air Resources Board made the right decision to tighten harbor craft and ferry regulations to better protect our air quality, accelerate the zero-emission vessel market, and catalyze port electrification — and we urge them to take up zero-emission cargo ship regulations next.”

Specifically, today’s rule requires that all short run ferries in California be zero-emission by 2026, mandates cleaner engine upgrades for tugboats and workboats, and creates options for all other regulated vessels to either upgrade to cleaner diesel or choose a zero-emission compliance pathway. The rule will save more than 530 California lives, protect 9.7 million Californians from elevated levels of air pollution, and accelerate action for zero-emission ports.

“Harbor craft like tugboats, ferries, and commercial fishing boats are one of the largest sources of toxic diesel pollution for Californians living near ports. The new Commercial Harbor Craft Rule is slated to save hundreds of lives, and deliver health benefits to nearly ten million Californians,” said Regina Hsu, attorney on Earthjustice’s Right to Zero campaign. “CARB’s vote today is a substantial moment for climate leadership and a victory for port communities fighting diesel pollution. This commitment to electrifying boats is an essential milestone for an electric future in California.”

Currently, harbor boats are one of the top three sources of cancer risk for Californians living near the ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach, San Diego, and Oakland. In passing this standard, Governor Newsom and the California Air Resources Board are setting science-based regulations to protect our communities, advance environmental justice, fight back pollution in our skies and protect our clean air and waters, and unlock clean energy investment and jobs. 

“Millions of Californians breathe in dirty air that fails to meet state and national air quality standards. California has taken the lead in getting clean cars, trucks and buses into use – it’s time to do the same for harbor craft and oceangoing vessels,” said Bill Magavern, Policy Director, Coalition for Clean Air. “We must reduce toxic diesel pollution and smog that sickens and kills Californians, as well as the greenhouse gasses that are wreaking havoc with our climate.”

“While we celebrate this landmark regulation, the challenge remains to implement this, and all environmental regulations, in ways that are equitable in both the burden and the benefits.”  said Brian Beverdige, Co-Director, West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project.

Today’s adoption is a reminder that transportation pollution doesn’t only come on wheels. Today’s ruling takes California one step further in advancing Governor Newsom’s landmark executive order to transition to 100% zero-emission transportation, including ships and boats, by 2035-2045. However, this rule is just the beginning. 

“This is an exciting first step toward cutting pollution from California’s boat sector, which heavily pollutes port communities, endangers millions of Californians, and adds to the climate problem. Zero-pollution ships and ferries have already set sail around the world, and this decision will help make California a clean energy leader in this sector too. Everyone deserves the right to breathe clean air, and this rule helps ensure everyone will,” said Yassi Kavezade, Senior Campaign Representative.

The technology exists for zero-emissions harbor craft: Just like cars and trucks, boats and ships must transition off of fossil fuel propulsion. Now is the time to transition commercial harbor craft to 100% clean fleets, and our coalition will continue to monitor the implementation of the rule to ensure we achieve zero-emission for all vessels.  No industry should get a free pass at the price of our frontline communities and the environment. 

“The Commercial Harbor Craft Rule passing is a testament to CA Air Resources’ momentous climate leadership and the advocacy of port communities in fighting diesel pollution,” said Fern Uennatornwaranggoon, Senior Air Quality Policy Manager, Environmental Defense Fund. “This move to electrifying boats is one essential victory in our greater movement to electrify everything.”

Already, there are over 400 zero-emission ships powered by batteries in operation in the world, with another 182 on order. California’s first zero-emission passenger ferry is already on the water in the San Francisco Bay! This technology can be replicated for every new ferry in California. California will see its first first fully electric, American-made tugboat in the Port of San Diego in early 2023. It is currently in production, designed and owned by U.S.-based Crowley Marine.

“Commercial harbor craft is a significant source of diesel-particular matter in San Diego’s Portside Communities who have been asked to shoulder a disproportionate amount of pollution from maritime operations for far too long. The technology to create zero-emission commercial harbor craft is well on its way to achieving 100% zero emissions by 2035. We urge CARB to continue to strengthen its commercial harbor craft regulations to achieve a full transition to zero-emissions by 2035 to help address the public health crisis our Portside Communities are facing each day,” says Danny Serrano, Senior Policy Advocate with Environmental Health Coalition.

The shipping industry needs to end its dependence on fossil fuel vessels. It’s time to electrify all boats, decarbonize ships, and achieve pollution free California ports. 



Gwen Dobbs, Pacific Environment, [email protected], 202-329-9295