Port Authority seeks cheap power for idling Red Hook cruise ships

The Brooklyn Papers / Jess Wisloski

The Port Authority and Carnival Cruise Lines say they want to cut air pollution from docked sea-liners at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, but power companies could short-circuit the initiative.

An official from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said the bi-state agency could modernize the $56-million terminal, which opened in 2006, so that luxury liners could use “shore power” — the mainland power grid — instead of cheaper, but dirtier, shipboard generators that run on diesel fuel.

But the official, Port Authority General Manager William Nurthen, told Community Board 6 on Monday night that before the pollution-reducing plan could go into effect, the state Public Service Commission would have to force Con Edison or another energy provider to sell discounted juice to the big boats that berth on Pier 12, just south of Hamilton Avenue.

“The issue is what is the rate you’re going to charge the ships,” Nurthen said at the meeting of the CB6 Environmental and Public Safety committee at PS 15. “Carnival is not going to do it unless it’s economically feasible.”

Nurthen, joined by an official from the city Economic Development Corporation, said the Port Authority would spend $3.5 million to construct a substation and related infrastructure to link ships making a port of call in Brooklyn and that Carnival would splurge on more than $1 million per vessel, including the Queen Mary 2.

While some residents applauded the possible improvements, they questioned why they weren’t included in the terminal, just off Bowne Street, when it opened in 2006.

“The city was building a $56-million state of the art cruise terminal and the technology was well known then,” said Adam Armstrong, a Pioneer Street resident who’s regularly called for environmental improvements in the area. “I can’t believe it will take four years to implement this.”

Nurthen called the changes better late than never because they would reduce certain emissions and airborne particulates, even after factoring in increased emissions from the inland power plants to meet the ships’ demand.

That said, emissions from port-related activities in the city, New Jersey and on Long Island contribute only a small fraction of airborne pollution in the metropolitan area — one percent of pollutants in some cases.

Announcements about the move to reduce the environmental harm from an active cruise terminal came just weeks after many South Brooklyn residents carped about a city plan to relocate a beer distribution company, reliant on trucks to move its cargo, onto the same pier as the cruise terminal. Many oppose that proposal because increased truck traffic will exacerbate air conditions, which they say is regularly foul.