Port of L.A. helped pay for cleaner China Shipping vessels--which later stopped docking in L.A.

The Port of Los Angeles paid a Chinese government-owned shipping company $5 million in 2005 to equip cargo vessels to plug into electric shore power while at dock to keep their massive diesel engines from polluting neighborhoods near the harbor.

The company, China Shipping, used the money to upgrade 17 ships, but the city didn't get all the promised environmental benefits. Most of the vessels stopped traveling to Los Angeles in 2010, a Times review of shipping industry data showed.

The ships that took their place on the Asia-to-Los Angeles route were not all equipped for shore power. From 2010 to 2013, a period in which residents were promised that virtually every vessel docked at the terminal would plug in, half left their engines running, port records show. In 2012, 88% left their engines running.

As a result, people who live near the port spent those years inhaling more diesel exhaust — a known carcinogen — than they were promised.

Since 2014, nearly all ships that dock at the China Shipping terminal have plugged in because the newer, larger vessels plying the route now are generally built with shore power in mind, port spokesman Phillip Sanfield said.

The port's payment to upgrade ships was part of a legal settlement to a dispute that began nearly 15 years ago when residents and environmentalists, citing health concerns, sued to block expansion of the China Shipping terminal, which sits beneath the Vincent Thomas Bridge near central San Pedro.

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