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Port unveils new electric cranes, the first in North America

The Port of San Diego is celebrating the arrival of two electric powered cranes that will move cargo between ships and the Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal which is located just south of downtown and just west of Barrio Logan.

The massive cargo lifters are the first cranes of their kind to be delivered in North America.

“We are a port of firsts, and we are excited about what we’re doing at the Port of San Diego and this is a big day for the San Diego region,” said Rafael Castellanos, the chair of the Board of Port Commissioners.


The battery-supported devices will help the port meet its aggressive clean air goals by 2030.

“By replacing our diesel-operated cargo handling equipment with electric equipment, like these cranes, we continue to ensure the air on and around the terminal is cleaner to breathe, we reduce our environmental impacts, and we fulfill our responsibility to support commerce and jobs in our region,” Castellanos said.

The cranes tower over the 96-acre facility and they will be used to load and unload cargo ships docking at the marine terminal.

The blue cranes are not cheap. The port spent $14 million on the cranes and another nearly $9 million for the infrastructure to support them. The port got $2.7 million from the San Diego Air Pollution Control District to help offset those costs.

“If we’re going to grow our cargo operations and do it in a way that our communities can support, then we have to make big investments,” Castellanos said. “We have invested or committed to spend about $63 million committed and with our partners about $103 million. That’s a massive investment to help move the port in that direction.”


The cranes are expected to start working later this year. The equipment replaces a diesel crane that Castellanos said is the dirtiest piece of equipment at the terminal.

In addition to their clean air benefits, the new cranes can lift 400 metric tons. The port’s diesel crane could only lift 100 metric tons.

Port officials call the massive devices a game changer for public health and the region’s economy.

The equipment will help the port take a step closer to transitioning all cargo handling equipment to zero emission vehicles by 2030.

That goal was adopted when port commissioners passed a Maritime Clean Air Strategy (MCAS) in 2021. The MCAS is a planning document that came about after years of discussions with nearby community members and environmental organizations which demanded the public agency clean up the air in portside neighborhoods.

The Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal just south of San Diego on Jul 19, 2023.
Erik Anderson
The Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal just south of downtown San Diego on Jul 19, 2023.

The MCAS sets a strict timetable to make changes that will reduce pollution and improve air quality.

“Essentially, it says reduce emissions from all the diesel-dependent devices that you use,” said Diane Takvorian, a co-founder and strategic advisor for the National City-based Environmental Health Coalition. “So, that includes ships, truck, cargo-handling equipment and any other device that you use that is dependent on diesel fuel.”

Diesel engines produce cancer-causing particulate pollution that is especially dangerous for small children.

Particulate pollution is widely seen as being responsible for more than double the rate of asthma emergency room visits than the county average and triple the rate in La Jolla.

Eliminating all diesel engines in the area could reduce particulate pollution by 84%, according to Takvorian.

“It’s really important that our port has done this,” Takvorian said. “Because it’s a huge sign that they really are serious about reducing emissions and we hope that they’ll stay on that path.”

Takvorian also hopes that more trucks carrying goods in and out of the terminal complex will soon be electrified. That would be a major boost to efforts to clean the air in National City and Barrio Logan.

The Port of San Diego’s zero emission goal hits five years before a state mandate takes effect.