Goodbye forever? Cargo ships sitting in the San Francisco Bay Area are departing

4 mins read

Bay Area residents are used to seeing a bunch of container ships sitting in the San Francisco Bay Area, but the view is going away for good, SFGATE reported.

This, as the organizations handling the mobility of the ships weighing about 200,000 tons will impose new protocols.

Cargo ships used to line up as they approached the coast and anchor in the bay, waiting for a docking place.

Some changes were implemented into the system and as of Monday, the ships get their assigned time from the port. While they wait, they leave the bay waters open as they stay 50 miles off the coast — in the “Safety and Air Quality Area”.

In a phone interview with SFGATE, Port of Oakland spokesperson Roberto Bernardo said: “The overall goal is to reduce congestion, to promote maritime safety and minimize air quality impacts.”

Ten anchored ships in the Bay await berths at the port on Wednesday, he said, adding that: “The numbers should go down in the coming days, you’ll see a dramatic decrease.”

The combined effort of The Pacific Merchant Shipping Association, Pacific Maritime Association and the Marine Exchange resulted in the new off-shore waiting system.

In a statement to SFGATE, PMSA said: “The new process reduces emissions from vessels located near the Bay Area, and allows more space between vessels – an important safety feature during winter storms.”

“The new procedure also enables vessels to slow steam across the Pacific, thereby reducing overall emissions throughout their journey,” it added.

Meanwhile, Bernardo said that all ports are faced with a big issue in terms of air quality.

Since 2005, an 86 percent reduction on diesel emissions was recorded at the Port of Oakland due to the use of “shore power.”

“When they plug in they actually run on pure solar and wind energy,” Roberto said. “The maritime industry has come a long way. The goal is to be an all electric port.” 

The ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles first implemented the new waiting process in November 2021. This caused a notable reduction in San Pedro Bay’s vessel backlog as the supply chain faced historic challenges recently.

“The resounding success of the new container vessel queuing system in Southern California has set the stage for this expansion to the Bay Area,” said PMA President and CEO Jim McKenna through a statement. “This updated system has reduced the number of vessels at anchor near our ports, enabling safer operation for vessels and their crews as well as additional protections for coastal communities.”

The Marine Exchange of Southern California said that there was a drop in the number of anchoring and drifting shops off the Southern California coast early this month. The number went down to 17 from the previous 86.

“It doesn’t mean there are going to be less ships, it just means they’re not going to be anchored in the San Francisco Bay,” Bernardo cleared.

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