Millions of Americans live near ports, where exposure to poor air quality from diesel emissions can increase the likelihood of life-threatening health problems such as heart disease, cancer, and respiratory illnesses. In 2020, Savannah and Charleston ranked fourth and ninth, respectively, in container volume among U.S. ports. This high traffic volume significantly affected local air quality, especially while vessels were berthed, due to the emissions from the diesel-powered marine engines that maintain onboard power and support cargo handling operations.
Friends of the Earth wanted to quantify how connecting vessels to the local electricity grid during dockside operations (and thus letting them shut off their auxiliary engines) might improve air quality. While this approach shifts the emissions from vessels to landside energy generating units, it generates fewer emissions than marine diesel fuel. To explore the feasibility and value of this solution, ERG adapted the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Shore Power Tool (which ERG helped EPA develop) to local vessel activity and auxiliary engine data specific to these ports. The result: ERG found that use of local electrical power can drastically reduce emissions at the ports of Savannah and Charleston.