Herculean effort

Yet even with these achievements, it will take a herculean effort to bring all of California’s ports to zero or near-zero emissions. We share the air board’s goals of transitioning the freight system into the cleanest and most efficient system possible at the earliest possible date. But the earliest possible date must be driven by a realistic investment plan for new technology, something the strategy currently lacks.

If California products and port gateways are to remain competitive while meeting Sustainable Freight Strategy and SIP goals, the air board and air district must help the freight transport industry make these epic transformations possible. They and other agencies must base their air quality plans and regulations on independent economic analysis, accurate data and common-sense forecasts. They must also support incentives and funding for these ambitious changes. To date, the maritime supply chain has spent more than $5 billion on port-related emission reduction activities in California alone. The looming cost to convert the supply chain to zero-emission systems will easily dwarf that amount.

This is why it is imperative for the air board and air district to recognize the importance of keeping California ports competitive and understand the need to keep goods flowing through our state’s gateways. We must have the cargo to generate the revenue that will help transform our ports into the greenest and cleanest in the world.

Implementing the Sustainable Freight Strategy and gaining federal approval for the SIP will hinge on all of us working together toward co-equal goals of lowering emissions to zero while growing California’s share of global trade. If we do not move forward together to attain these duel goals, we risk losing the cargo, jobs and resources to achieve the zero or near-zero emission goals that were the reason for creating the plans in the first place.

John McLaurin is president of the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association, a nonprofit that represents owners and operators of marine terminals and U.S. and foreign vessels. The association operates from offices in Long Beach, Oakland and Seattle.

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