The Port of San Diego is celebrating the installation of a $7.1 million system that will enable cruise ships at berth to be powered by a shore-side electrical source, which will benefit the community by reducing air pollution. With the completion of the system, the port becomes the fifth port in the world and the second in California with the capability of powering a cruise ship from shore.

Port executives, including Michael B. Bixler, County Supervisor Greg Cox, the San Diego County Air Pollution Control District and SDG&E will help dedicate the system during a ceremony at the B Street Cruise Ship Terminal beginning at 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 11, 2010.

Holland America Line’s cruise ship the ms Oosterdam will be at the terminal that day. While the vessel is in port, it will be powered from the shore.

The infrastructure that will provide shore power to cruise ships docked at the B Street terminal will also have the capability of powering a ship docked at the new Port Pavilion on Broadway Pier, which will serve as both an event center and auxiliary cruise ship terminal when it opens later this month.

Shore power technology is just one of these initiatives the Port of San Diego has implemented to minimize its impact on the environment through its Green Port Program.
“Ships are our largest single source of air emissions and this project is going to significantly reduce those (harmful) emissions,” said Michelle White, manager of the Green Port Program. “It’s going to be a huge benefit to the community.”

Typically, when a cruise ship is in port, the vessel’s diesel engines continue to run to provide onboard services for passengers and crew. Now, a ship can shut down its engines and instead plug into the shore power system to generate power.

“It’s a huge electrical system,” White said. “We can provide up to 12 megawatts of power. That’s enough to power a large college campus.”

White said when a cruise ship uses the shore power system while docked, it prevents about one ton of pollutants from entering the air.

“A lot of ports globally are looking at shore power, and we are on the cutting edge,” White said. “We will be the fifth port in the world to use shore power for cruise ships.”

The Port of San Francisco was the first port in California to complete installation of shore power for cruise ships.

To help pay for the system, the Port was awarded a $2.4 million state Carl Moyer grant by the California Air Resources Board through the county’s Air Pollution Control District. This is the first shore power system the Carl Moyer grant has funded.

“This project accomplishes substantial reductions in the emissions of harmful air pollutants from cruise ships and is a benefit to everyone in San Diego County, who will now breathe cleaner, more healthful air,” said Bob Kard, Air Pollution Control Officer-Director.

Initially, one cruise ship can be powered from shore at a time. Eventually, the system will be able to power two cruise ships simultaneously, either at B Street or at the terminal and event center on Broadway Pier.

The  infrastructure was installed by Cochran Electric, Inc., which has perfected the shore power standard for cruise ships. The company has installed shore power for the ports in Seattle, San Francisco and Vancouver, British Columbia.

The Port of San Diego moved quickly on the project, which is one reason it was awarded the state grant.

Under a measure adopted by the California Air Resources Board to reduce emissions and associated health risks, beginning Jan. 1, 2014, a cruise line must use shore power for 50 percent of its calls to a port.

Last year, there were 223 cruise ship calls to the Port of San Diego, bringing more than 800,000 passengers.  Each home-ported cruise ship call – one originating and ending in San Diego – has an economic impact of about $2 million.  That number is calculated from passenger spending and the businesses that bring in revenue from serving the cruise lines. This includes everything from florists, food suppliers, and bus and transportation services to local attractions such as Sea World and the San Diego Zoo.