Pacific Rim Report: PNW concentrates on building sustainable ports

By Patrick Burnson · April 1, 2013

Pacific Rim port authorities seeking to become more economically and environmentally sustainable will convene in Seattle this month for an intense one-day session examining the major issues currently facing them.

Staged by the Association of Pacific Ports (APP) on April 17, the seminar will include a “sustainability snapshot survey” of all participants. APP associate members Brightworks and Harris Group will then present the survey results, offering a new perspective on the industry’s impacts on regional ecosystems and global sustainability. The results may also point to opportunities to capture value from appropriately balanced efforts relating to sustainability.

It should come as no surprise that the event is taking place at Sea-Tac International Airport in Seattle, Wash. Not only is this a remarkable model for sea-air shipping, but also resides in the very epicenter of environmental stewardship.

Last February the Port of Seattle presented its Green Gateway Partners Awards, which recognizes the comprehensive environmental achievements of the port’s containership operators. This year’s award winners are APL Ltd., Maersk Line, Matson Navigation, and COSCO Container Lines America’s Inc.



The name of the awards—Green Gateway Partners—complements Seattle’s role as the entrepot for maritime trade between Asia and the American Heartland. Indeed, recent independent studies indicate that for cargo originating in much of Asia and bound for a wide range of destinations across the U.S., routes through Seattle resulted in lower carbon emissions than other routes.  



The Green Gateway Partners Awards set as a minimum requirement participation in the port’s “At-Berth Clean Fuels” program or use of shore power to reduce air pollution. These and other environmental activities are assigned point values. Depending on the number of points earned, Green

Gateway Partners can achieve one of three recognition levels—gold, silver, or bronze. The awards and scoring system are then calcluated by analysts from Cascadia Consulting Group and Glosten Associates, both consultancies specializing in policy and planning for public agencies.

Meanwhile, the neighboring Port of Tacoma has been in the forefront of the Northwest Ports Clean Air Strategy, a ground-breaking initiative that has helped further reduce emissions in the Puget Sound and Georgia air basins.

Mandatory engine and fuel standards like these have also spurred the carriers’ adaptation of newer engines and cleaner fuels. Along with Seattle and Metro Vancouver, B.C., Tacoma is working with maritime partners to lower diesel emissions from all sources, with particular attention to vessels—and it’s clearly paying off. Maritime-related air pollution has decreased in Tacoma as much as 40 percent, depending on the type, since 2005, says Tara Mattina, the port’s communication director.

According to Mattina, much of that clean air progress is due to significant, voluntary investments of the maritime industry and government agencies in cleaner technology, cleaner fuels, and more efficient systems of operation. 

Smaller regional ocean cargo gateways comprising the APP membership are doing their part as well. According to APP executive director Dave Hunt, “niche” ports like Astoria, Grays Harbor, and Portland are encouraging all stakeholders to cut back on greenhouse gases.

The takeaway for shippers is obvious: PNW ports anticipate new compliance standards and have demonstrated their commitment to keeping cargo moving—in both directions—by mitigating government interference or activist disruption.

At the same time, shipping associations like the Agricultural Transportation Association and the National Industrial Transportation League should be encouraging their members to see that this trend takes hold parts of the country where regional cooperation makes sense.


About the Author

Patrick Burnson
Patrick Burnson is executive editor for Logistics Management and Supply Chain Management Review magazines and web sites. Patrick is a widely-published writer and editor who has spent most of his career covering international trade, global logistics, and supply chain management. He lives and works in San Francisco, providing readers with a Pacific Rim perspective on industry trends and forecasts. You can reach him directly at [email protected]

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