Norfolk – The Virginia Port Authority announced today (Jan. 26) an expansion of its Green Operator – GO -- program that will provide an incentive to ocean carriers to burn ultra low-sulfur marine gas oil or use alternative power technology while their vessels are moored at VPA-owned terminals.
As a result of that expansion, the VPA announced today Maersk Line will be the first ocean carrier calling The Port of Virginia to take advantage of the incentive. Beginning in February, all Maersk Line vessels calling the port will burn the low-sulfur fuel while its vessels are at idle during cargo operations.
Last year the VPA began looking for ways to expand GO, which is a program offering financial support to replace older, more polluting short-haul trucks that serve ports in the Mid-Atlantic. The logical step, said Heather Wood, the VPA's director of environmental affairs, was to expand the program to the ocean carriers with the focus being a reduction in air pollutants coming from vessels at idle.
"In three years there will be a federal mandate requiring all vessels plying North American waters to burn this low-sulfur fuel," Wood said. "This is the beginning of our effort – and a first in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast -- to help ocean carriers get ahead of that mandate but we're doing it with an eye on the positive effects for air quality Hampton Roads.
"Maersk has always had a very progressive environmental program and it has participated in some similar programs elsewhere, so it seemed like a logical fit."
The announcement of the fuel-switching agreement between VPA and Maersk Line was made at the Elizabeth River Project's (ERP) annual awards ceremony where the VPA was inducted into the ERP's Hall of fame. The ERP is a non-profit organization dedicated to restoring the river to the highest practical level of environmental quality through government, business and community partnerships.
"The Port of Virginia fuel switch is the first such initiative in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast, and its implementation will create immediate benefits to the region by reducing emissions and improving air quality," Gov. Bob McDonnell said. "The partnership with Maersk Line represents a model that applies environmentally-conscious business practices while keeping our region's economy moving forward."
Through the fuel-switching program, Maersk Line will take advantage of a $300,000 incentive from VPA to burn the ultra low-sulfur fuel in its vessels when they are pier side at The Port of Virginia. Once moored, Maersk Line vessels will draw fuel from an on-board tank filled with the cleaner burning fuel.
Maersk Line vessels call The Port of Virginia on a weekly basis and last year the ocean carrier accounted for 300 vessels calls in Virginia. The ultra low-sulfur marine diesel contains less that 0.1 percent sulfur.
"The fuel switch in the Port of Virginia is part of Maersk Line's commitment to reduce emissions and improve our environmental performance," said Lee Kindberg, director of environment and sustainability at Maersk Line. "We estimate that the fuel switch will reduce emissions of sulfur oxides by 20 metric tons in the first six months. When local residents see a Maersk container or ship, they will know that we are doing our part to improve air quality in Hampton Roads."
Norfolk-based Maersk Line, Limited (MLL) will have 18 ships participating in the program. The fuel switch program will run for 13 months and involve 41 Maersk Line ships making more than 210 port calls.
"We are pleased to participate in an effort that will improve air quality in our hometown," said Patrick Callahan, director of health, safety, security, environment and quality at Maersk Line Limited. "The collaboration with VPA and Virginia Department of Environmental Quality enabled the rapid start-up of a program that will provide real environmental and health benefits to our community."
Through the $300,000 incentive, the VPA will subsidize Maersk Line's cost to purchase the ultra low-sulfur marine diesel for one year. The money for the incentive comes from three sources: the VPA, $75,000; the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, $75,000; and $150,000 from the federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) grant program. Over the course of the next five years the VPA will receive $4 million in CMAQ funding for the program.
Operational Fuel Switch Details
Switching involves changing which tank is supplying the fuel and controlling the rate of temperature changes during the transition. Vessel personnel follow the engine manufacturer's recommendations during the switch.
Incentive for the Use of Alternative Power technology
The VPA is also offering a one-time, $500,000 per vessel incentive to ocean carriers that want to employ technology that uses no fuel while a vessel is at idle during cargo operations. This technology, Wood said, essentially would have a vessel using a battery-powered energy management system to fuel its auxiliary engines.