New power source lets cruise ships plug in, not burn fuel

File photo: Long Beach - People stand on the bow of the Queen Mary (R) to view the Queen Mary 2 (L) as it enters Long Beach Harbor to meets her namesake ship, 23 February 2006.
File photo: Long Beach - People stand on the bow of the Queen Mary (R) to view the Queen Mary 2 (L) as it enters Long Beach Harbor to meets her namesake ship, 23 February 2006. Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

The Port of Los Angeles has become the first in the world to serve three different cruise ship lines with plug-in power systems.

The systems are called alternative maritime power. They're pretty new, and they enable what harbor operators call "cold ironing" – the ships stop burning fuel and creating emissions when they're in port.

Plugging in a ship isn't like plugging in a hair dryer – while they're in port, cruise ships demand about as much power as a thousand homes do. This month, Disney Cruise Lines, Norwegian Cruise Lines and Princess Cruises all plugged in instead of firing up auxiliary generators powered with diesel fuel.

Princess Cruises agreed four years ago to use dockside electric power; that cruise line has similar agreements in place in Juneau, Alaska and Seattle, Washington.

The Port of L.A.'s World Cruise Center is the only place in the world where two cruise ships can plug in at the same time. Cargo ships at the port have been able to plug in for about seven years now.

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