The Port of Virginia® recently received a pair of awards for its ongoing efforts to become a better steward of the local environment and its contribution to the creation of a greener supply chain.

In January, the port received its 21st consecutive River Star Business Award for Sustained Distinguished Performance from the Elizabeth River Project (ERP) and an inaugural Thoroughbred Sustainability Partner Award from Norfolk Southern.

The ERP is a regional non-profit that helps protect the river and its watershed by supporting and promoting sustainable development and redevelopment, shoreline restoration, and education. Norfolk Southern is a Class I railroad that provides rail service to the port. The railroad’s sustainability program centers on energy efficiency, innovation, and environmental stewardship.

“Being recognized for the work we are putting into our sustainability goal helps affirm our efforts,” said Stephen A. Edwards, CEO and executive director of the Virginia Port Authority. “We’re building the port of the future and the US East Coast’s premiere port complex. A very important focus of this effort is our strategic and intentional investment in and commitment to environmental sustainability for future generations.

“Norfolk Southern and ERP are different kinds of organizations that share some very common goals and philosophy in the area of sustainability. The fact that they see our overall efforts hold value to the community, the environment, and the supply chain is important to us.”

Since 2001, ERP has recognized the port for pollution prevention, stormwater control initiatives, and habitat restoration like the development of oyster reefs and wetlands. This year, ERP recognized the port’s ongoing work to reduce carbon emissions and continued innovation. The port’s efforts include:

  • Emissions Reduction – The port and Norfolk Tug further increased barge operations running between the Norfolk Harbor and Richmond Marine Terminal to reduce truck traffic and air emissions. In 2021, the barge service reduced air emissions by 11.2 million pounds, when compared with the emissions if transported by truck.
  • More efficient equipment – The port added 10 new hybrid shuttle trucks at Virginia International Gateway (VIG) where 33 percent of the equipment is electric and 16 percent is hybrid.
  • Operational efficiency – In 2022, turn times for motor carriers at VIG and Norfolk International Terminals averaged 40 minutes. Faster turn times mean less time spent idling and a reduction in emissions.
  • Reducing impacts per cargo unit – Since 2017, there has been a 42 percent reduction in fuel consumption per TEU (twenty-foot equivalent unit) and a 30 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions at the port.
  • Reducing waste and increasing recycling – Recycling rates have gone from 30 percent in 2020 to 68 percent in 2021.

River Star recipients are chosen through peer review of documented results. Program participants are encouraged to focus on large opportunities to reduce toxic pollution or restore and conserve wildlife habitat. Norfolk Southern’s award recognizes measurable progress and a program’s “novelty, relevance, and impact.”

In 2021 the port announced the implementation of a progressive environmental program where operations will achieve net-zero carbon emissions by the year 2040. The goal includes a 65 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and operating with 100 percent renewable energy by 2032.