Slowing Ships for Cleaner Air

The Port is a leader in encouraging shipping lines to participate in voluntary programs to reduce vessel emissions.


What is the Vessel Speed Reduction Program?

The Vessel Speed Reduction Program (VSR) is a longstanding Port of Los Angeles initiative for reducing emissions from vessels entering and leaving the harbor. The benefits of the VSR program include:

  • Cutting ship emissions by conserving fuel
  • Reducing all key pollutants
  • Improving air quality across the region and along the California coast
  • Promoting voluntary sustainable practices among shipping lines

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A Key Strategy in Cutting Vessel Emissions

Commercial ships that move goods around the world represent the single largest source of air pollution associated with operations at the Port of Los Angeles and many other ports around the globe. Because ships are governed by international convention, there are limits to what one port or even one nation can do to regulate them. Recognizing the importance of cutting vessel emissions, the Port of Los Angeles launched the Vessel Speed Reduction Program (VSR) in 2001. The Port developed the original program in partnership with the Port of Long Beach, and the voluntary program remains a key strategy of the San Pedro Bay Ports Clean Air Action Plan.  Both the South Coast Air Quality Management District and the California Air Resources Board have recognized VSR as an effective strategy for improving air quality throughout Southern California and along the California coastline.

Success in Reducing All Key Pollutants

Participation in the VSR program has increased steadily over the years and remains high. Out of 3,728 ships entering and leaving the Port of Los Angeles in 2015, 92% slowed to 12 knots within in 20 nautical miles and 80% did so within 20 to 40 nautical miles. VSR is among the main strategies leading to the Port’s significant progress in cutting vessel pollution over the last decade with diesel particulate matter down 87% and sulfur oxides down 97%. The Port also has made the more inroads in curbing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from ships than any other source category, having reduced them 25% since 2005. Ongoing and new Port initiatives target nitrogen oxides, the toughest pollutant to tackle from ships, which are down 31% over time.

$1.4 Million in VSR Incentive Refunds Have Been Paid Out

The Port continues to push for 100% participation in the VSR program by offering incentives to participants with a voluntary compliance rate of 90% or higher. This group includes shipping lines calling at terminals where compliance is a condition of their lease. The incentive, a refund based on a dockage fee formula, was introduced in 2008. Since then, the Port has paid out $1.4 million in VSR incentive refunds to top participants through the end of 2015. For a number of shipping lines, VSR participation is an extension of their own environmental programs and commitment to cleaner vessel operations.