Port of Houston Authority Wins Gulf Guardian Award

Monday, August 08, 2011

The Port of Houston Authority has won a first place 2011 Gulf Guardian Award for a far-reaching project to reduce emissions in the Gulf.

The Port Authority and its partners, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency/Office of International Affairs, the Mexican government, including the State of Veracruz, SEMARNAT (Mexico's Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources) and PEMEX (Mexico's state-owned petroleum company), Maersk Line and Hamburg Süd, won the award in the Bi-National category.

Established in 2000, the Gulf Guardian awards were developed by the EPA's Gulf of Mexico Program Partnership to recognize and honor the businesses, community groups, individuals and agencies that are taking positive steps to keep the Gulf healthy, beautiful and productive.

Aston Hinds, Senior Manager, Environmental Affairs, accepted the award on behalf of the Port Authority from EPA Regional Administrator Armendariz at a ceremony in New Orleans on August 3.

The Port Authority's air quality planning staff has worked with the EPA's Office of International Affairs since 2008 on a partnership project with ports in Brazil and Mexico to study the feasibility of fuel switching to lower sulfur diesel while transiting into the Port of Houston and those destination ports.

In March 2010, the International Maritime Organization officially designated waters off North American coasts (extending up to 200 nautical miles) as an Emission Control Area (ECA). In anticipation of the North American ECA start date on August 1, 2012, the Port Authority was approached by the EPA Office of International Affairs to participate in a project to study the feasibility of fuel switching and to measure the emission reductions from vessels switching to lower sulfur fuel.

The Port Authority brought Maersk Line and Hamburg Süd on as project partners and committed $13,400 to help pay for the cleaner fuel. A November 2009 Maersk Roubaix fuel switch in the Port of Houston and the Mexican port of Progreso used $5,000 of those funds, with the remaining $8,400 used for the Hamburg Süd vessel, the Cap San Lorenzo, to fuel switch in the ports of Veracruz, Altamira and Houston in April 2010 with an EPA research team onboard measuring emissions, showing improvement on port area air quality and sensitive reefs, (a 99 percent reduction of SO2 deposition), due to fuel switching within 24 nautical miles of the port. From ships alone, modeling showed a seven-fold reduction in SO2 concentrations.

Benefits also extended to the Port of Santos, Brazil, to utilize the remaining fuel. EPA-OIA's report, "U.S.-Mexico Demonstration of Fuel Switching on Ocean Going Vessels in the Gulf of Mexico," was published
in December 2010 and is available on the EPA Website at http://www.epa.gov/oia/fuelswitch.html.

As a result of this project, two DERA grants have been awarded to fund ongoing fuel-switching activities in the Gulf of Mexico at the Port Authority's two container terminals.

This is the fourth Gulf Guardian award that the Port Authority has won since 2000. These annual awards are given in seven different categories: Business, Civic/Non-Profit Organization, Partnerships, Youth/Education, Individual, Government, and Bi-National.

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