Skip to main content

Port of Long Beach on Track to Achieve Zero-Emission ‘Moonshot’

At its first in-person State of the Port address in three years, Port of Long Beach (POLB) executive director Mario Cordero kept coming back to one word: “green.”

Sustainability, not cargo volume, was the focus of the annual address on Thursday. North America’s busiest gateway (alongside its neighbor in the San Pedro Bay complex, the Port of Los Angeles) is on a trajectory to zero out its carbon emissions by 2030, he said.

The goal represents the port’s own “moonshot,” Cordero said, referencing former President John F. Kennedy’s vision of landing a spacecraft on the faraway planet. Noting that the port’s own lofty goal, established in 2017, is now within reach, Cordero told an audience, “We have moved on from simply reducing emissions to eradicating emissions.”

Much of the advancement results from the adoption of electrified and automated vehicles and machinery within the terminals; 17 percent of cargo-handling equipment like lifts, cranes and diesel tractors has transitioned to emission-free—higher than any other U.S. gateway. “Our terminals, our longshore labor, Southern California Edison and countless other partners are working to procure, convert and demonstrate the equipment of the future,” Cordero said.

Related Stories

Fourth quarter 2022 saw the POLB join the state’s largest hydrogen fuel network in preparation for the zero emission trucks and other vehicles that it and its partners plan to adopt in the coming years. The first publicly available charging station for electric-powered trucks in the nation has been opened on site. “We expect stations to be open all over Southern California, just like diesel stations on many corners today,” he added.

Port of Long Beach executive director Mario Cordero. Kate Nishimura / Sourcing Journal

In September, POLB announced that 30 charging units will be built at the 4 Gen trucking yard by Electrify America to power 61 zero-emission battery electric trucks, he added, illustrating advancements in green truck conversion by private partners. By 2025, the 4 Gen logistics trucking company plans to run an emission-free fleet with charging stations at its POLB yard and its facility in Rialto, Calif.

The implementation of the Clean Truck Fund Rate, a $10 tax on each import or export TEU hauled by a truck, took place last April, and was designed to push the adoption of zero-emission vehicles or trucks run on low nitrogen-oxide. The collaborative action with the Port of Los Angeles has already generated more than $30 million for new infrastructure, like green truck charging and refueling stations. Cordero said the program could pull in $90 million each year.

Construction on the Pier B on-dock rail support facility is slated to begin this year, with the ultimate goal of helping reduce truck congestion by boosting rail capacity. BSNF Railway announced in October that it was planning to construct a $1.5 billion intermodal facility expansion of more than 4,000 acres in Barstow, Calif., providing greater regional rail connectivity with the POLB. The company’s project is slated to conclude construction at the same time as the Pier B rail facility.

Cordero announced the port’s newest commitment, dubbed “ZEERO,” which stands for Zero-Emission Energy Resilient Operations. The program’s focus is developing renewable energy sources to power port operations, the first of which is a proposal for a 400-acre facility to assemble offshore wind turbines near the Long Beach International Gateway Bridge. The facility would house heavy-lift wharves to support large cranes capable of handling and assembling large offshore wind turbine components. A deep-water port, the POLB can accommodate vessels to carry these components to their destinations in the Pacific Ocean, where strong winds blow. The proposed turbines would be the largest in the world, standing taller than the Eiffel Tower.

While highlighting infrastructural advancements and plans for new green initiatives, Cordero indirectly acknowledged the long-stalled port labor talks that have been underway without much progress since May. Calling International Longshore Workers Union (ILWU) members “the foundation of this complex,” he said the workforce’s skill and experience bolster POLB’s high standing among other national gateways. “Our marine terminals and labor had so much to handle last year,” he said, noting that January 2022 saw a record 109 ships queuing for entry to the ports. “There has been no vessel backup at the San Pedro Bay complex since November 2022,” he added.

“We want everybody to understand that we are concerned always about the environmental safety and environmental justice that presents itself at these ports,” ILWU Local 13 president Ramon Ponce de Leon said in a pre-recorded statement. “And we are moving forward with the ports to maintain that—as well as keeping the economic justice, and an equal balance.”