Plug and Pay

The Top Story on May 31st in Cargo Business News was written by Richard Knee. His title poses the question: “Who will pay for cold ironing?” Here’s the gist of what Mr. Knee wrote up:

“American President Lines on Friday became the first ocean carrier to hook a vessel up to shoreside electricity at the Port of Oakland, and company executives told a gathering of customers, port and government officials, dockworkers, seafarers and reporters that it isn’t costing shippers a cent.

“But who will pay long-term as efforts to cut and clean up berthed ships’ emissions spread remains to be seen and, according to some observers, that issue is a major reason that it’s taken about three decades for shoreside hookups, also called cold-ironing, to move from concept to reality …

“In heralding the startup of cold ironing, APL executives cited cost and technological challenges in explaining why the practice is slow to catch on.

“‘You can’t just buy an extension cord and plug it in,’ said Eugene D. Seroka, president of APL Americas. It took four years and $ 11 million to get the system installed at the Oakland facility run by Eagle Marine Services, APL’s terminal-operating subsidiary, Seroka said. Of that, $ 4.8 million came from a California Air Resources Board grant and APL paid the rest.

“Asked how much of APL’s expense would be passed on to shippers, Rickey Childs, operations director at the terminal, said ‘none.’

“Nate Miley, a member of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District Board of Directors, said an additional $ 25 million grant from the state air resources agency, matched by port authority and federal funds, would enable installation of more than 11 more plug-in systems around the port.

[And in the very next paragraph the writer inserts a legitimate concern … and he spills the beans.]

“Also remaining to be seen is how much of the $ 500-an-hour cost for the electricity itself APL and other carriers will try to pass along.

“David Olsen, manager of engineering for APL Americas, said the need to set international standards for hardware design, voltage, frequency, capacity and ‘quality’ of power is another reason for the seemingly slow spread of cold-ironing. Vessels need to plug in wherever they dock, he said …”

But of course it’s not “costing shippers a cent”. As long as you’ve got the California Air Resources Board, the Bay Area Quality Management District, the “port authority”, and “federal funds”, as funding sources, why should the shippers be asked to pay anything? Nothing will be “passed along” to shippers because everything will be “passed through” to the hapless taxpayer/consumer.

And every source of funding mentioned above also bleeds that same hapless taxpayer/consumer.