Case Studies

Shore to Ship Power Pier J

Saving Energy by Bringing Power to Ships
  • Written by: Emma Bouthillette
  • Produced by: Shore to Ship Power Pier J
  • Estimated reading time: 4 mins

The Port of Long Beach, Calif., is currently undergoing an effort to bring power to vessels coming in to port to reduce fuel burnt on the ships and pollution to the bay. Helix Electric (Helix) is working specifically on the Shore to Ship Power Pier J (Pier J). It’s an effort being tackled up and down the coast by ports in order to meet standards soon to be enforced by the California Air Resources Board.

When shore power is brought to vessels in port, a process called cold-ironing, it allows ships to turn off their engines and plug in to power onboard systems. This process can reduce about 95 percent of a ship’s emissions, which is the equivalent of removing about 33,000 cars from the road.

Helix was founded in 1985 and has become a reputable electrical contractor and engineer. The company has received numerous awards for work and safety from Associated Builders and Contractors, Associated General Contractors and California’s branch of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Helix’s mission simply states, “When people work cooperatively toward common goals with integrity and attention to quality and detail, very special things can happen.”

The company’s mission fit well with the overall project at Pier J, according to Kerry Frost, senior project manager for Helix. “The unique requirements of this project were a perfect fit for the unique character of our company,” he says.

“The Port of Long Beach Green Port Policy sets a standard for other ports in their efforts to mitigate the environmental impact of operations and this project provided an opportunity to set ne standards for retrofit of shore to ship power,” Frost adds. “The unique design precipitated a unique approach and that is something Helix has been very successful with.”

Providing Power

Al Moro, chief harbor engineer for Port of Long Beach, reports four berths are currently equipped for shore power to date. The first pier to be equipped with this form of power was Pier G in 2008. The port is spending about $100 million for shore power upgrades and in addition to Pier J the port is working on three other piers each with multiple berths.

The port’s ultimate goal is to have many piers equipped with shore to ship power by Jan. 1, 2014. Pier J itself is a $26 million project and Helix is working diligently to bring extension cords down the pier to two berths. Throughout the process, the company has worked with a familiar set of subcontractors to complete the job.

Meanwhile, Helix and its subcontractors have to be mindful of the port operations. “With modeled efficiency it’s the business of the port to move goods and keep the economy thriving,” says Frost. “Their business is conducted seven days a week and twenty four hours a day.”

These ongoing operations posed a challenge as Helix worked to install four electrical substations and several miles of pipe and wire, both in ground and under the wharf. Frost reports this was a major challenge for the company to do with a limited impact to the vessel operations.

The primary challenge for Helix was to install 4 electrical substations and several miles of pipe and wire both in-ground and under-wharf with limited impact to vessel operations.

Way of the Future

It’s not just the Port of Long Beach working to offer shore power. Ports along the United States coast and internationally are doing the same thing. When the Port of Long Beach offered this type of power back in 2008 on one of its piers, it was cutting edge. Today, shore to ship power is the way of the future.

It’s a future Helix has seen a lot more of. Frost reports the company has been involved in far more diverse and complex projects recently than in years past. The company has expanded from California to across the country and is also looking to work internationally.

Helix has a strong relationship with general contractors, engineers, and architects, which has made working on complex projects like Pier J possible. The company also has a staff of skilled experts in all aspects of electrical design and construction and is able to work cooperatively with customers to achieve a common goal.

The company has been working diligently to speed up the schedule of the project on Pier J. Initially, the port was hoping for a March 2014 completion date, but that has been bumped to the end of this year to meet California Air Resources Board standards that will be enforced after the new year.

“So far we’ve completed construction of South Wharf substations with conduit and cabling to shore power outlets,” says Frost. “We’ve entered the testing phase. Arrival and installation of North Wharf substations began in June.”

With the effort to speed up work on Pier J, Frost anticipates Helix Electric will be done with construction activity by November. After that, a ship commissioning for the Shore to Ship Power Pier J will finalize the project.

For more information about Helix Electric, please visit:

Published on: September 25, 2013


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