LNG fuel is just one way the Port of Tacoma’s getting cleaner

Cargo waits to be unloaded from a ship at the Port of Tacoma's Maersk terminal in July 2003.
Cargo waits to be unloaded from a ship at the Port of Tacoma's Maersk terminal in July 2003. News Tribune file photo

The Port of Tacoma has a long history and culture of innovation, shared by our customers and partners.

Three years ago, TOTE Maritime, a port customer for 42 years, began the process to become one of the first shipping lines to run its ships on liquefied natural gas (LNG), a much cleaner burning fuel than traditional bunker diesel.

Is LNG a perfect solution? No, but TOTE’s vision and initiative should be celebrated. We can see these benefits immediately by moving toward LNG now and keeping our trade moving, not waiting for the next technology to be invented.

Our plan to open an LNG plant on the Tideflats in the next few years will give us a competitive advantage and increase safety by not having to transfer the fuel via truck.

Recently, another of our customers and the world’s largest shipping company, Maersk, announced its goal to develop a commercially viable carbon-neutral vessel by 2030.

Given the 20 to 25-year life of a vessel, Maersk is hopeful the technology will allow it to test, build and deploy by 2050.

Maersk is well positioned to find the next generation of technologies to address our industry’s environmental impact, whether through batteries, wind, solar or solutions yet to be discovered.

We applaud these bold efforts to lead the way to a more environmentally responsible future. As steadfast supporters of the Paris Climate Accord, we are committed to solving the immense climate problems ahead through a wide range of approaches.

2020 is right in front of us, and with it comes stricter standards for shippers. The deadline is associated with an international treaty in 2009 that will limit ship emissions on the coasts of U.S. and Canada.

TOTE, as a U.S. flag carrier, had even more stringent requirements. It moved to fuel its ships with LNG, which also improves local air quality.

TOTE’s ships move up and down the coasts of the Pacific Northwest, supplying critical goods to the people of Alaska. These ships play a critical role as Alaska recovers from a recent earthquake.

Replacing bunker diesel with LNG will reduce sulfur oxide emissions by 100 percent, harmful diesel particulate matter by more than 90 percent, and nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide emissions by 90 percent.

That means less asthma, cancer and other adverse health impacts for workers on the dock, Tacomans and residents of Puget Sound.

Many new ship orders include dual fuel capability to allow for LNG use, and much of the cruise industry has adopted LNG as the new standard.

BC Ferries is converting its vessels, while local trucks and buses run on LNG and CNG (compressed natural gas) every day.

The Port has made significant air quality progress, and we pledge to continue those efforts. The Northwest Seaport Alliance’s Clean Truck deadline went into effect on Jan. 1. It requires all trucks calling at our international container terminals to be model year 2008 or newer. This brings a 90-percent improvement on truck emissions.

Safety is something we take very seriously. We were pleased when the Tacoma Fire Department released a safety study last summer that found “Tacoma LNG was designed to the applicable codes and standards with significant attention to detail, and a perceived objective of becoming a best in class LNG facility.”

Additionally, having the plant here guarantees the reopening of a Tideflats fire station, which will improve response times for nearby residents.

We know there is confusion and misinformation about LNG in our community. To that end, we have developed an online information page at www.portoftacoma.com/lng.

Port of Tacoma Commissioners are elected by Pierce County voters to steward this incredible community asset. We strive to carry out the Port’s mission to create jobs and economic activity while lessening our environmental impact and ensuring community safety.

LNG adoption is a common-sense solution that will take us closer to our health and climate goals.

Don Meyer of Spanaway was elected to his third term on the five-member Port of Tacoma Commission in 2017. John McCarthy of Northeast Tacoma was elected at the same time after previously serving on the commission from 1983-92.