Since the Brooklyn Cruise Ship Terminal opened in Red Hook in 2006, local residents having been complaining about the dirty, polluting diesel fumes spewing from the ships as when they sit in the terminal. But cleaner air is on the way. After two years of negotiations, the Bloomberg administration has announced that cruise ships at the terminal will now shut down their engines and plug into a giant electrical outlet. By switching to “shore power,” the port becomes the first East Coast cruise terminal to do so — a little surprising considering that West Coast ports have been using the clean technology for nearly a decade.
We may be a tad behind, but it’s never too late to switch to cleaner energy forms. Red Hook residents are thrilled that the cleaner technology will rid their quiet neighborhood of the soot and associated health risks. As part of the proposal to switch to shore power, an environmental impact study was completed. It found that large diesel-burning cruise ships emit more than 1,600 tons of air pollutants every year. By plugging into a clean power source in Red Hook, ships are annually eliminating nearly 1,500 tons of CO2, 95 tons of nitrous oxide, ad 6 1/2 tons of diesel particles. According to the terminal’s management, the Economic Development Corporation, it is the equivalent of removing 5,000 cars from the road.
The EPA reports that particles in diesel fumes can aggravate respiratory ailments like asthma and increase the risk of cancer. Asthma is already a big problem in the community, which home to one of the city’s largest housing projects. In 2009, a study found that nearly 40 percent of the project’s residents suffered from asthma. Red Hook is also located right next to the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.
While every group involved has always agreed that electric charging was the way to go, heated debates erupted over who should pay for the power. The EDC and the energy supplier, New York Power Authority, will subsidize the cost of the power, which is 28 cents per kWh. Under the five-year agreement, the Carnival Corporation, which owns two ships that port at the terminal, will pay 12 cents, and the EDC and NYPA will split the remaining 16 cents. Carnival also has to pay to retrofit its ships to be able to plug in, which will cost the company about $4 million.
The upgrade of the port itself cost nearly $15 million, which was mainly paid for by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, with the EPA contributing $2.9 million. The upfront costs are high, and Carnival is expected to pay $1 million more annually than they would by sticking to diesel, but the environmental and health savings are priceless.