Inside the 'Aggressive' Goal to Make LA Port Ships 100% Zero Emission

Brenda Gazzar
Brenda Gazzar is a multilingual multimedia reporter who has worked for a variety of news outlets in California and in the Middle East since 2000.
Inside the 'Aggressive' Goal to Make LA Port Ships 100% Zero Emission
Photo courtesy of the Port of Los Angeles.

Los Angeles' City Council adopted an ambitious maritime resolution last week that calls on top importers like Walmart, Dole, Nike, Amazon and Home Depot on 100% zero-emissions ships by 2030, even though the technology doesn't yet exist.

Idling ships sitting off the San Pedro Bay Coast have captured national attention as a symbol of broken supply chains, but those ships are also big polluters.


Research suggests ship pollution contributes to more than 250,000 premature deaths each year around the world, and at least 1,300 premature deaths each year in Los Angeles and Long Beach. Low-income communities of color who live near the ports are especially affected.

While the city doesn't have any regulatory power over maritime rules, the move places pressure on some of the world's biggest retailers and their supply chains. The resolution asks shippers ferrying everything from televisions and cars to sofas and microwaves to "immediately adopt" existing emissions-reducing technologies, such as wind-assisted propulsion and slow-steaming.

It also calls for a broader effort to create zero-emission shipping corridors along the California coast and across the trans-Pacific trade route.

dot.LA spoke with Christopher Cannon, chief sustainability officer of the Port of Los Angeles, to discuss the resolution, and why he thinks all parties will do what they can to achieve such a drastic industry overhaul.

\u200bPort of Los Angeles Chief Sustainability Officer Christopher Cannon

Port of Los Angeles Chief Sustainability Officer Christopher Cannon

dot.LA: In layman's terms what does this new resolution do?

Christopher Cannon: It really encourages the industry to move toward low carbon and zero carbon fuels as soon as possible and this is important.

We think that the move to low carbon fuels can happen pretty quickly, like in the next few years.

We see, for instance, that some of the shipping lines are talking about using methane feedstock that arrived from renewable sources starting in 2024.

The goal to get to 100% zero emission ships by 2030 is very aggressive.

Technology does not exist today to do that, but it does not mean that it isn't a good goal and an important goal, and we want to push ourselves and the maritime industry to get there.

Rapidly decarbonize the maritime shipping industry to create zero emissions corridors—we like that, and we want to create green shipping corridors. You start doing this stuff now, not waiting until zero emissions is possible. You start doing low carbon and even zero carbon elements in a shipping corridor.

Maybe not everything is fully zero [emissions], but you can have parts of it be zero. A lot of different activities can occur from the movement of cargo from one port to another: the loading and unloading, the sorting.

All the activity associated with moving that ship can be green and we can reduce the carbon footprint, we can decarbonize all of it with best management practices.

Photo courtesy of the Port of Los Angeles.

Does the city have any enforcement power, say if they adopt legislation, in this domain?

No, we don't run the ships and we don't control the ships. We don't regulate the ships. They are regulated by international bodies, but we certainly have the ability to exert influence on the shipping industry and on international regulators like the International Maritime Organization.

We're engaged in discussions with them on these goals. While we can't enforce, we certainly can influence what the industry does, and we will do our best to work with the industry and help to help them transition to these cleaner fuels.

What is the shipping industry saying about the push to zero emissions?

They tell us that their customers want the same thing, that their customers want low carbon and zero carbon and zero emission ships, too.

They are as interested in doing it as we are because that's what the Home Depots and Amazons are pushing for, too, and the reason those customers are pushing for it is because people like you and I, who are ultimately buying products, we're pushing for it. Everyone wants to do it.

It's just a matter of getting the technology to the point where it can be deployed. The industry is testing this equipment now. There are different pieces of the journey. There is the cargo handling equipment, there's the tugboats. There are other parts of the journey where we can improve efficiency and reduce carbon and get to zero carbon emissions, and we want to get every part of that journey.

We want zero emissions ultimately but you want to start out with low carbon right away, then get to zero carbon as quickly as you can, then get to zero emissions as quickly as you can after that.

Photo courtesy of the Port of Los Angeles.

Is there any concern that this could impact shipping in any way?

No, we hope not. I mean the industry, as I said, their customers are pushing for the same thing so their customers certainly don't want the delivery of their cargo to be adversely affected, so the shipping lines don't want to do that either.

It's pretty exciting because it's a case where everyone seems to now realize that we have to reduce our carbon footprint as soon as we possibly can in order to fight climate change.

So we're starting to see consumers are demanding it. Manufacturers of goods are seeking it. Goods and movement, the industry is hearing a strong message from their customers that they want it, so the goods and movement industry, the shipping lines, the trucks, even the trains, everybody is being pushed to do this and so we, too, want to push as hard as we can.

These resolutions, like the one from the City Council, are important because they send a message too that this is something that everybody wants.

Are there enough resources to make the technology a reality?

It's expensive. Private industry has to invest mostly, to be honest with you, but I think there's a role for government to help incentivize this activity through grants and other kinds of inducements; certainly ports can help to incentivize those by offering favorable rates and other things for people who are moving cargo in a manner that is convenient and ultimately with a zero carbon footprint.

The technology is expensive but I think everyone believes that once the technology becomes commercialized and ready for widespread deployment, that you'll have a reduction in cost.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Subscribe to our newsletter to catch every headline.

Cadence

LA’s Scooter War Winners Becoming Clear as Cities Ratchet Up Regulations and Funds Dry Up

Maylin Tu
Maylin Tu is a freelance writer who lives in L.A. She writes about scooters, bikes and micro-mobility. Find her hovering by the cheese at your next local tech mixer.
escooters in LA
Photo by Dogora Sun/ Shutterstock

Last month, Helbiz announced that it had officially acquired Wheels, the West Hollywood-based startup founded by Joshua and Jonathan Viner, co-founders of Wag. But in Los Angeles, there were already signs that things were in flux.

In early August, Culver City announced that Wheels would no longer be operating within its boundaries. Then in September, Wheels also ceased operations in West Hollywood, pending adoption of sidewalk detection technology.

Read moreShow less

Behind Her Empire: Oui the People Founder Karen Young on Seizing Opportunity

Yasmin Nouri

Yasmin is the host of the "Behind Her Empire" podcast, focused on highlighting self-made women leaders and entrepreneurs and how they tackle their career, money, family and life.

Each episode covers their unique hero's journey and what it really takes to build an empire with key lessons learned along the way. The goal of the series is to empower you to see what's possible & inspire you to create financial freedom in your own life.

Behind Her Empire: Oui the People Founder Karen Young on Seizing Opportunity
Courtesy of Karen Young

Karen Young launched Oui the People in 2014 with only $1,500 in her pocket from her Brooklyn apartment. Today, the company is the fastest growing Black-owned beauty brand in the U.S.

On this episode of Behind Her Empire, Young talks about the role of an entrepreneur, the importance of doing research before launching a brand, and how her immigrant upbringing influenced her business drive.

Read moreShow less

Vinfast and Autonomy Expand Partnership to the Tune of 2,100 More Vehicles

David Shultz

David Shultz reports on clean technology and electric vehicles, among other industries, for dot.LA. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Outside, Nautilus and many other publications.

Vinfast car
Vinfast

Despite unveiling its third and fourth U.S. production models at the LA Auto Show last week, auto manufacturer Vinfast has yet to deliver any electric vehicles here in the United States. But this doesn’t appear to be a concern for Santa Monica-based Autonomy. On the same day Vinfast unveiled its new VF6 and VF7 platforms at the auto show, the EV subscription company announced that it had purchased another 2,500 Vinfast VF8 and VF9 vehicles in a deal worth roughly a hundred million dollars, according to Autonomy CEO Scott Painter.

The deal is part of Autonomy’s plan to upend the traditional leasing/buying models for car ownership and replace them with a subscription model that relies less on credit and long term contracts. The idea is to lower the barrier for entry into the EV market for customers who may have previously been priced out. In order to do that though, Autonomy needs cars. Lots of them. Vinfast seems to have turned a corner in their supply chain and manufacturing, or at least the company thinks it has. The 2,500 new vehicles are expected to be delivered over the course of 2023, and will serve markets in California, Arizona, Florida, Texas and Washington state.

Back in August, Autonomy went on a buying spree, purchasing 23,000 electric vehicles from 17 different manufacturers. That deal included 400 of Vinfast’s VF8s and VF9s. The expansion of the partnership—2,100 additional vehicles—seems to signal that Autonomy believes in the car company and its tech. “Part of our earlier order included an order for some Vinfast cars,” says Painter. This is Vinfast coming back to us and saying, ‘This is how many cars we can get you over 2023.’“You're going to hear a lot of these [announcements] with every OEM. Everybody's got different volumes and different orders. But this is the next bounce in the process for us.”

Painter says the company has driven the Vinfast products and feels confident enough to move forward with the deal. Nonetheless, since the cars are so new, there’s no way to validate their long term reliability or how much demand they’ll get from current subscribers. But the influx of equipment will also serve as a nice testing ground for Autonomy as they integrate their telematics and software into a new platform. “The ability to know where the car is—latitude, longitude, mileage, and how it's being driven—is the key to unlocking much of the subscription value proposition,” Painter says.

Despite its roots in Vietnam, Vinfast has its US headquarters in Los Angeles and is manufacturing its vehicles in a plant in North Carolina. Which should make its VF8 and VF9 platforms eligible for at least some of the rebate money in the Inflation Reduction Act. With a comparatively low starting price of $40,700 the VF8 is a particularly interesting entree into the U.S. market. But that price doesn’t include the cost of the battery.

Vinfast, for better or worse, has adopted a unique strategy in which users will lease their car’s battery over time. This model should allow owners peace of mind that if something goes wrong with the battery, they won’t be on the hook to cover the entire cost of replacement. But with EV sticker prices so high to begin with, it’s unclear how consumers will respond to the added monthly payment of either $169 or $219 per month, depending on the model. Autonomy, however, bought the cars outright with battery included, and customers won’t have to pay an additional fee every month if they choose a Vinfast car subscription.

All of this makes Vinfast one of the few OEMs that’s confident it will be able to deliver large-ish numbers of vehicles next year. A proposition that bodes well for Autonomy: “Good for them,” says Painter. “They fixed some of their supply chain issues and got their factories up and going.”

RELATEDEDITOR'S PICKS
LA TECH JOBS
interchangeLA
Trending