SAN DIEGO — The Port of San Diego is unveiling two all-electric cranes, the first all-electric cranes installed at any port in North America.

What You Need To Know

  • The Port of San Diego unveiled two new all-electric mobile harbor cranes

  • They are the first all-electric cranes installed at any port in North America

  • The Port estimates the cranes will slash greenhouse gas emissions by 47 metric tons per year

  • The cranes are anticipated to be operational later this year

Rosalia Sandoval grew up in and around the small community of Barrio Logan and said it has kept its strong character despite being boxed in by industrial businesses and the freeway cutting through it. The Environmental Health Coalition said Barrio Logan is one of the most polluted areas in California and has some of the highest diesel pollution in San Diego County.

“We understand you need to do your work. Please do your work,” Sandoval said. “I hope you understand that we need to breathe clean air. Please allow us to breathe clean air. I think a lot of us just want to feel that people care.”

Sandoval is one of many community members who have been advocating for the industrial businesses to help bring clean air back to Barrio Logan. According to the EPA, Barrio Logan residents have an 85% to 95% higher risk of developing cancer than the rest of the United States.

“Reverse that harm and be able to, like, have my son play outside again and not have to worry about him breathing in all these things,” she said.  

Less than a mile away, the Port of San Diego is trying to repair the pollution problem.

Peter Eicher works for the Port and said they now have two all-electric mobile harbor cranes. They replaced a diesel crane that he said was the dirtiest piece of equipment at the terminal and estimates the switch will slash greenhouse gas emissions by 47 metric tons per year. The new cranes also have double the lift capacity of the old diesel crane, allowing them to load and unload more cargo.

“So not only are we going to eliminate or reduce pollution, but now we can bring in different business and not increase our pollution in doing that,” Eicher said.  

He said switching to electric from diesel is part of the Port’s Maritime Clean Air Strategy, which aims to transition all cargo handling equipment to zero emissions by 2030.

“Just because you’re plugging something in doesn’t mean all the pollution is gone, but it means the localized, toxic air contaminants that are impacting human health, you know, the folks living in Barrio Logan, that’s gone,” Eicher said. “We still have the greenhouse gasses that we’re dealing with, but we’re getting closer and closer to eliminating that. The grid is getting cleaner.”

Father Brad Mills, SJ, is a priest at Our Lady of Guadalupe parish in Barrio Logan.  

“The people here, there is a culture in them of caring about the beauty of this neighborhood,” Mills said.  

His parish frequently does volunteer work like trash pickups and he said they will continue to ask for better things for their community.

“I certainly think that the two electric cranes are a good step; however, I think it’s also important that continued advocacy happens so that the air pollution is continually minimized and that the opinions of the people in the neighborhood are taken into consideration,” he said. 

Sandoval said her community is resilient and there need to be more changes like these to keep them all safe in the future.

“My vision is just being able to really transform this whole neighborhood,” she said. “This can hopefully be an example of other communities along the coast because I know it’s not just us.”  

The cranes are anticipated to be operational later this year.