Diesel gas-powered engines and generators run around the clock at the Port of Long Beach, Calif. As new ships dock in the slips, cranes and trucks offload containers, creating a significant amount of emissions.

The Middle Harbor Redevelopment Project at the Port of Long Beach, however, will both drive down emissions and give all ships that dock at the terminal shore-to-ship power. During this significant infrastructure overhaul, the 300-acre terminal will be electrified and served by a 112MVA electric utility point of connection.
The Port implemented the project to comply with a mandate from the California Air Resource Board, which will require half of the ships that call on any of the state’s terminals to run on shore-to-ship power by the beginning of 2014.

“It will be a huge emission saver,” says Kent Sayler, electrical engineer for P2S Engineering, a consulting engineering and commissioning firm headquartered in Long Beach, Calif. “As ships go from one terminal to another, they can plug into the receptacles mounted on the wharf. Because they are powered by the electric utility, they can turn their generators off. This makes for a much cleaner environment around the port.”

Breathing new life into the terminal

As part of the project, the engineering and construction team are not only helping to reduce emissions, but they’re also modernizing the shipping terminal to increase efficiency and throughput.

When the team first came onboard, they discovered that the infrastructure had not been updated in more than 30 years, and about a dozen different electric utility meters were servicing individual pieces of equipment throughout the terminal.

“It was hard to track things down and figure out what load was served by what, which made it inefficient from both an energy and maintenance standpoint,” says Sayler.
Another challenge resulted from how the terminal was originally designed. In the past, smaller ships would dock at the terminal at any of three different slips. Over time, the Port realized that two of the slips were too small for modern ships to dock. It was more cost-effective to abandon them as shipping channels and subsequently convert them to land for storing shipping containers. Moving forward, the team will fill in the space between Pier E and Pier F and create one 300-acre terminal with a 4,250-ft wharf structure capable of handling three large container ships at a time.

The electrical team is also installing new lighting to illuminate the terminal. Previously, the terminal relied on a dozen 1,000W high-pressure sodium luminaires mounted on 120-ft poles.

Although these lights cut through the fog, gave good coverage, and lasted a long time, they also consumed a significant amount of energy.

By investing in high-mast LED luminaires for the wharf, the Port will reduce its traditional load from lighting by 60% while still achieving equivalent light output. For example, instead of using a 1,000W lamp, the Port can step it down to 375W with a complete LED array consisting of 10 high-mast LED modules.

Coordinating the work

The multi-faceted renovation consists of several different construction projects that are taking place simultaneously. The planning and engineering for the prototype stages of the project started back in 2004, and the team broke ground in late 2010.

All of the work is being done in phases, starting with the two wharf projects. The team will then focus on building out half of the container yard and filling half of the slip, which is scheduled to be done in late 2014. Then, the tenant that currently occupies Pier F will relocate to and occupy the northern half of the container yard, the two sections of wharf, and the four new buildings by the end of next year. This is necessary so that Pier F may be subsequently redeveloped as the southern half of the Middle Harbor terminal.

“There are six or seven different prime contractors working with multiple design and construction teams to coordinate everything on one piece of land to try to get everything built,” says Sayler. “It’s a coordination exercise.”

The Port’s program management is responsible for allocating the proper resources and facilitating progress on the project. Individual construction management teams are then running each project, and these groups are meeting at least once a week.
P2S has a contract to design the infrastructure, underground conduit and conductors, and specify electrical equipment necessary to power the cranes, ships, and buildings the Port provides to the tenants.

“Luckily for most of the job, it’s one unified design team, so at P2S, we have a good understanding of the entire electrical scope for each project,” says Sayler.

Installing infrastructure

P2S Engineering is thus far partnering with two electrical contracting firms on the project for the Port of Long Beach. Neubauer Electric is responsible for the North Gate project, which will be the main inbound and outbound gates for trucks delivering and removing containers at the terminal.

Electricians from Dynalectric Co. are also working on the wharf construction, container and intermodal yards, and slip fill projects. This contractor is responsible for installing the medium-voltage electric utility infrastructure to the primary main terminal substation, distribution of 12kV power to feed gantry cranes, shore-to-ship power substations, and lighting substations under two phases of the Middle Harbor Project. These first two phases will also include high-mast LED lighting and the provisions for 6.6kV shore-to-ship power usage for docking ships.

The slip fill project includes the relocation of major electric utility 12kV infrastructure to allow the lowering of an existing wharf. The container and intermodal yard project is a complex project with more than a dozen crane, reefer, lighting, and railyard substations located throughout the terminal.

“This project is the first stage of what will be the largest automated terminal in the country,” says Toby Moore, senior project manager for Dynalectric. “Hundreds of miles of ductbanks and cabling will be installed to provide this facility with the required power and controls necessary to function. Our company feels very fortunate to be a part of this project for the Port of Long Beach.”

Powering the project

To power the newly renovated terminal, Southern California Edison built a new substation, which has capacity for four 28MVA transformers that provide 12kV power to feed the terminal.

The electricians are installing equipment to power 10 refrigerated container substations or “reefer” substations. Much of the cargo that comes off of the ships must be maintained at a certain temperature because it contains perishable food. These containers are powered with a 480V plug that derives its power from a substation that steps the voltage down from 12kV to feed the refrigerator outlets in the container yard. The 2,250 reefer outlets on the job site will ultimately demand up to 22MVA of total load.

The site is composed of several different types of loads: power to the cranes and ships, the reefer outlets, and the buildings. On the job site, the team will be working on powering buildings for administration, crane repair, chassis repair, and marine operations. In addition, the new equipment must power 18 quay cranes with 12kV power to allow them to load and offload cargo from the ships. This cargo will then be loaded onto outgoing trucks via 74 automatic stacking cranes, which are also powered with 12kV. Throughout the project, the workers are focusing on serving these loads for current and future power needs.

By modernizing the terminal, the design and construction team is minimizing emissions, standardizing power outlets for incoming cargo ships, and streamlining the electrical distribution system throughout the Port of Long Beach.    

Fischbach is a freelance writer and editor in Overland Park, Kan. She can be reached at amyfischbach@gmail.com.