Mitsui O.S.K. Lines Pays $250K California Port Air Pollution Fine

MOL fined for violating California's port emission regulations
MOL paid a file for its ships' emission in the Port of Oakland (file photo)

Published Sep 23, 2020 3:41 PM by The Maritime Executive

As part of California’s ongoing efforts to enforce strict emission regulations in its major ports, Japanese shipping line Mitsui O.S.K. Lines (MOL) has agreed to pay a significant penalty for violations of the air quality regulations. The fines relate to MOL’s practices while docked in the Port of Oakland, California.

Starting in 2007, California enacted At Berth relations designed to reduce nitrogen and particulate matter emissions from vessels while at dock. Covering the busiest ports, including Los Angeles, Long Beach, Oakland, Hueneme, San Francisco, and San Diego, the regulation requires container, passenger, and refrigerated cargo ships to reduce emissions while docked.

MOL has agreed to pay $253,300 in penalties to the California Air Resources Board (CARB) for violating the Ocean-Going Vessel At-Berth Regulation. According to CARB, the violations were discovered during routine audits of the company’s 2017 and 2018 vessel fleet visits to the Port of Oakland. During 2017 and 2018, CARB reports that Mitsui O.S.K. Line’s Oakland fleet did not meet the three-hour diesel engine operational time limits. They said that the ships failed to meet the requirement to reduce by 70 percent auxiliary engine power generation. The settlement will be paid to California’s Air Pollution Control Fund to support efforts to improve air quality and to comply with all applicable CARB regulations.

“Emissions from ships pollute communities adjacent to the Port, and also contribute to smog,” said CARB Executive Officer Richard Corey. “This regulation requiring shipping fleets to reduce their diesel emissions while at berth has a profound impact on helping clean up air quality, especially in communities located near ports.”

The regulations, which were phased in over time since 2007, requires vessels to reduce their diesel engine power generation while docked. Vessels can accomplish this by turning off their diesel engines and connecting to grid-based shore power, or by using alternative technologies to achieve equivalent emission reductions while in port says CARB.

They reported that 87 percent of all regulated fleets complied with the regulation in 2017.

The power reduction requirements were further increased from 70 to 80 percent in 2020. In addition, at the end of August, California adopted a new At-Berth Regulation that will further increase the rules and add additional categories of vessels to the restriction. Starting in 2023, containerships, reefers, and cruise ships, covered by the current regulations, will transition to the new rules. In addition, ro-ro vehicle carriers and tankers docked at the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles will be required to comply starting in 2025 and tankers docked in Northern California starting in 2027. 

The rule requires that every vessel coming into a regulated California port either use shore power or a CARB-approved control technology to reduce harmful emissions, including diesel particulate matter, fine particulate matter, nitrogen (NOx), reactive organic gases, greenhouse gases, and sulfur oxides (SOx). Approved alternatives to shore power include capture-and-control technology that employs a bonnet that contains and treats emissions from a ship’s stacks.

According to CARB, auto carriers and tankers collectively produce 56 percent of all fine particulate pollution from ocean-going vessels at berth in California ports. Once fully implemented, the updated regulation will deliver a 90 percent reduction in pollution from an expected additional 2,300 vessel visits per year. Over the past six years, CARB believes the rule has achieved an 80 percent reduction in emissions from more than 13,000 vessel visits.