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Port unveils electric grid for ships

Docked in Long Beach on Wednesday with a fresh load of oil from Valdez, the Alaskan Navigator didn’t look like much of a trailblazer.

The massive tanker sat silently, with a few thin cables draping down to some gray metal boxes. Missing was the incessant rumble of diesel engines, which on an average cargo ship would be running constantly to keep electrical systems going -- burning quite a bit of diesel fuel and generating a significant amount of pollution.

But the 941-foot Navigator, anchored at the BP oil terminal’s Pier T on the Long Beach port’s main channel, isn’t average. The vessel, owned by Alaska Tanker Co. of Portland, Ore., was plugged into what is billed as the world’s first shore-side electrical grid.

Only the Navigator’s sister ship, the Frontier, is similarly equipped. Oil tankers are notorious fuel guzzlers and air polluters because of the power that’s needed to pump vast amounts of crude out of a ship. It’s the rough energy equivalent of a day’s worth of driving by 187,000 cars, according to the Port of Long Beach.

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At a ceremony formally unveiling the port’s dockside power system, port Executive Director Dick Steinke described it as “another giant step” toward cleaning up the air.

The project cost $23.7 million and took three years to complete, port officials said. The port contributed about $17.5 million to the project and BP paid the rest.

Roger Brown, regional vice president of BP, said the emissions reductions amounted to 50% even when factoring in pollution created by power plants in generating the electricity.

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ron.white@latimes.com


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