The Los Angeles and Long Beach harbor commissions on Monday approved a one-year, voluntary program aimed at reducing sulfur emissions from cargo container ships entering San Pedro Bay, the Daily Breeze reports.

The $18.5 million plan is expected to reduce sulfur oxides by 11 percent, particulate matter by 9 percent and nitrogen oxides by 1 percent, according to officials with the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

"This is a transition from going dirty to clean and we are not going back the other way," said S. David Freeman, president of the Los Angeles harbor commission. "This is the beginning of a march to using cleaner fuel, not a one-year cause."

The voluntary program, set to begin July 1, calls on ships to switch to low-sulfur fuel within 20 to 40 miles of the twin port complex.

To encourage participation in the voluntary program, the ports would pay for extra costs associated with switching to the more expensive, low-sulfur distillate fuels, according to officials from both ports.

In return, the ships must limit speeds to 12 knots during the fuel switch. Vessels will also be required to use low-sulfur fuel in their auxiliary engines while berthed at the ports.

About 65 percent of the ships berthing at both harbors are projected to participate in the program.

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