Commissioner Creighton Comments on 2011 Air Emissions Report and Next Steps by Port of Seattle

Maritime-related air pollution has decreased—as much as 40 percent, depending on the type—since 2005, according to a report released today by the Puget Sound Maritime Air Forum.

“The results of the 2011 Emissions Inventory are significant, with substantial pollution reductions across the board for the Seattle harbor,” said Seattle Port Commissioner John Creighton.  “We still have work to do in protecting the environment and the health of both our workers and our communities, but the results of the 2011 inventory show that we are headed in the right direction.”

The report is the result of the 2011 Puget Sound Maritime Air Emissions Inventory, which provided an update to the 2005 baseline inventory.

The inventory estimated greenhouse gases, diesel particulate matter and a number of other pollutants, such as sulfur dioxides and volatile organic compounds. It focused on pollutants related to ships, harbor vessels, cargo-handling equipment, rail, heavy-duty trucks and other fleet vehicles associated with maritime activities.

Much of the clean air progress is due to significant, voluntary investments of the maritime industry and government agencies in cleaner technology, cleaner fuels and more efficient systems of operation.

Results from the 2011 inventory will help guide and focus future emissions reduction investments.Emissions in the airshed dropped since 2005 from the following pollutants:

Nitrogen oxides: reduced 14 percent

  • Volatile organic compounds: reduced 40 percent
  • Sulfur oxides: reduced 14 percent
  • Particulate matter (PM10): reduced 16 percent
  • Fine particulate matter (PM2.5): reduced 16 percent
  • Diesel particulate matter: reduced 16 percent
  • Carbon dioxide: reduced 5 percent


Overall, emissions fell for most sources since 2005. Diesel particulate matter emissions are summarized below:


  • Ocean-going vessels: reduced 16 percent
  • Harbor vessels: increased 7 percent
  • Locomotives: reduced 24 percent
  • Cargo-handling equipment: reduced 40 percent
  • Heavy-duty vehicles: reduced 52 percent
  • Fleet vehicles: reduced 47 percent

In the harbor vessels sector, which includes ferries, tugs, fishing and recreational boats, some categories of pollutants increased.This is likely due to a 12 percent increase in boat traffic, as well as an increase in the use of larger engines, which have higher emissions.

The maritime industry has adopted a number of voluntary initiatives to reduce emissions, including switching to low-sulfur or biodiesel fuels, using shore power, replacing or retrofitting older engines and improving systems to use equipment more efficiently.

The Northwest Ports Clean Air Strategy, a ground-breaking initiative of the ports of Tacoma, Seattle and Metro Vancouver, B.C., has helped further reduce emissions in the Puget Sound and Georgia air basins. Mandatory engine and fuel standards also have spurred adopting newer engines and cleaner fuels.

Some of the decrease also can be attributed to fewer ship calls and less cargo resulting from a sluggish economy.

Inventory results will help focus future efforts and investments. The ports of Seattle and Tacoma are updating their Northwest Ports Clean Air Strategy goals based on the inventory results.

Maritime partners will continue efforts to lower diesel emissions because they pose a public health risk. Exposure to diesel pollutants can contribute to increased rates of lung cancer, chronic respiratory and cardiovascular disease and other health effects.

Maritime industry partners continue to seek ways to reduce emissions from all sources, with particular attention to ships. While ship-related emissions have dropped, they account for 63 percent of the maritime-related diesel particulate matter emissions.

The 2011 results do not account for the North American “Emission Control Area” that went into effect Aug. 1, 2012, requiring ships operating in waters along the Pacific, Gulf and Atlantic coasts of the United States and Canada to burn cleaner fuels. This regulation is expected to have a significant effect in further reducing ship-related emissions.

The Seattle Port Commission will also soon be considering the next generation, or “Phase 2”, of its Clean Trucks Program.  The Commission will be taking a look at a number of options to incentivize cleaner truck technologies in the harbor, including a proposal by Commissioner Rob Holland last year to sponsor a pilot program with respect to trucks powered by compressed natural gas, or CNG.

“We have set the goal at the Port of Seattle to be the cleanest, most energy efficient port in North America,” noted Commissioner Creighton.  “I want to thank Commissioner Holland for his efforts working with port stakeholders –regulatory agencies, manufacturers, shipping and trucking companies and truck drivers – to look at how the Port of Seattle can continue to improve air quality for our community.”

John Creighton: Port of Seattle Goals Can Be Complex and Overlapping

As Port Commissioner, John Creighton has been involved in many difficult decisions involving the Port of Seattle. At times, he’s endured fire from critics who claim that the Port is losing its soul and is crumbling to the needs of gentrification and a never-ending population boom.  He’s also heard complaints from business leaders who want improved access to the port or else they will find neighboring communities who are willing to provide them with the access and government policies that they feel they need to operate. While listening to comment is part of any politician’s job, John Creighton feels that these sorts of comments are particularly hard to deal with, as they point to the crux of what the Port means to Seattle, and that meaning can vary from group to group.

In Seattle, the Port is a thriving business that brings both revenue and jobs into the community. Each container that comes into the Port represents an economic opportunity for Seattle, and that’s not an opportunity the region can afford to waste. According to a blog entry written by John Creighton, the state of Washington, the Port, King County, the city of Seattle and public and private interests have invested over $1 billion in infrastructure to support the industrial activities at the Port. Pushing out industry through gentrification means wasting these investments.

However, the Port provides some of the most sought-after real estate in Seattle, with stunning views of the water and amazing access to the hip and trendy parts of downtown. It’s no wonder that so many people want to live in this part of Seattle, John Creighton says, and it’s no wonder that businesses want to place restaurants, stadiums and other enticements there to make them stay.

The key is to make smart investments so that competing uses on the waterfront can co-exist, John Creighton says, to make good decisions on a case-by-case basis. This is what Port Commissioner John Creighton hopes to do in moving forward the Port’s Century Agenda, its 25-year plan to bring another 100,000 port-related jobs to the region.