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Cargo on the Move Through California: Evaluating Container Fee Impacts on Port Choice

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Publication Date: July 2006

Publisher(s): Coalition for Clean Air

Author(s): James J. Corbett; James J. Winebrake; Erin Green

Topic: Environment (Ocean and ocean resources)
Transportation (Maritime industry and transport)

Keywords: Marine freight traffic; Coastal pollution

Coverage: California


In many coastal areas, marine freight traffic contributes significantly to overall air pollution levels. This is particularly true in the vicinity of major marine ports in California, where active freight movement, including ocean-going vessels shipping consumer goods in large freight containers, has led to increases in ambient levels of particulate matter (PM), nitrogen oxides (NOx), and sulfur oxides (SOx).1-2 Additionally, elevated levels of these pollutants have been linked to significant local and regional health impacts such as asthma, heart disease and premature death. In the past few years, these health impacts have received significant attention from affected communities, policy makers and the industries involved in transporting consumer goods throughout California.

To address these emissions and public health concerns, some regions of the country are considering requiring environmental control technologies and/or clean fuels for ships. Other approaches to fund investments that will address these concerns include the application of port user fees (PUF) per shipping container on ships, where such fees may be used to enhance cargo security, to increase freight mobility by reducing rail congestion, and to mitigate air pollution and environmental damages caused by ship emissions and other freight modes.


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