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Georgia ports already on board with new EPA report on clean air near nation’s ports

Savannah port, gantries

Georgia's ports create an estimated 370,000 jobs across the state. File/Credit: Georgia Ports Authority/Stephen B. Morton

By David Pendered

Georgia’s ports are already implementing many of the environmental recommendations the federal EPA issued Thursday, which call for the nation’s ports to reduce diesel-engine emissions.

Savannah port, gantries

The Georgia Ports Authority won a 2016 EPA air quality award for its pollution-reducing electric rubber tire gantries. File/Credit: Georgia Ports Authority/Stephen B. Morton

The Georgia Ports Authority has spent $17.5 million since 2012 to replace diesel-powered cranes with electric cranes. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency commended Georgia’s ports in a report this year.

So far in Georgia, 45 cranes have been transitioned from diesel to electric power, or purchased with the capacity to be converted to electric power, according to the ports authority. These cranes represent 30 percent of the authority’s total number of cranes.

The new gantries are expected to burn 95 percent less diesel than current diesel-powered ones. Electric gantries reduce the emission of air pollutants by 67 percent, according to a report published by sciencedirect.com.

According to a statement in the EPA’s 2016 Clean Air Excellence Awards program:

  • “The Georgia Ports Authority (GPA), as a leading advocate of environmental stewardship, is implementing an electric rubber tire gantry (RTG) crane program that will transfer the entire RTG fleet to electric power. This will virtually eliminate the diesel fuel usage for these machines and reduce the terminal’s diesel emissions. This cutting edge technology, built to a GPA design, is the first electric RTG (eRTG) installation at a port in North America.”
ports in non-attainment areas

Georgia’s two ocean ports are not in an EPA-designated non-attainment for air quality, as are the ports’ competitors in the northeast and west coast. Credit: EPA

According to an EPA report issued Thursday, the nation’s ports need to do a better job of reducing the emission of air pollution and greenhouse gases that cause health problems and contribute to climate changed.

The situation is only going to worsen as the nation’s largest ports expand to serve the massive ships expected to transit the widened Panama Canal, which opened this summer. Savannah has already served a post- Panamax boat.

Georgia’s ports appear to be ahead of other ports when it comes to reducing diesel emissions.

The EPA report begins with the notion of replacing older diesel engines with ones that create lower emissions. Georgia’s ports are in the process of jumping over the step of using lower-emission engines in order to go straight to cranes wtih electric motors that don’t pollute the port.

Here’s a snippet from the EPA report:

Savannah port, truck gate

The Savannah port ranks No. 2 in the nation for its capacity to handle freight with amenities such as this eight-lane truck gate that opened Jan. 28 and reduces the amount of time trucks idle and emit air polluting tailpipe exhaust. File/Credit: Georgia Ports Authority/Stephen B. Morton

  • “Older trucks and equipment are longstanding fixtures of many port operations, and it will take many years before these fleets turn over to newer technology. Accelerating the retirement of older port vehicles and equipment and replacing them with the cleanest technology will reduce emissions and increase public health benefits beyond what would be achieved without further voluntary actions. For example, the emission reductions from replacing older drayage trucks with cleaner diesel trucks is significant, with NOx emissions being reduced by up to 48 percent in 2020 and PM5 emissions being reduced by up to 62 percent as compared to the Business as Usual case.”

The electric gantries in Savannah are powered in a manner similar to MARTA trains.

The port has installed 480-volt conductor rails. A network of retractable arms will link the power in the rails to the gantries. The gantries will have the capacity to switch automatically to diesel generators when the gantry is moving from stack to stack. The gantry operator controls all functions.

The ports’ other environmental efforts include:

  • Avoiding the use of more than 7.5 million gallons of diesel annually by electrifying ship to shore cranes and refrigerated container racks;
  • Reducing light pollution by using a computer-controlled lighting system and energy efficient fixtures that direct light downward, saving 8.7 million kilowatt hours a year and reducing CO2 emissions by 3.6 metric tons.

Georgia’s ports are in air quality attainment areas, as are the ports of Charleston, Jacksonville, Miami, Tampa and other southeaster ports.

The story is different in the northeast and west coast. New York/New Jersey, Boston, Los Angeles and Long Beach are all non-attainment areas for ozone, according to a map in the EPA report.



David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow.


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