Port of Virginia
(Image credit: Port of Virginia video)

When shipping containers arrive at a port by boat, truck, or train, they need to be moved and stacked so they’re ready for the next leg of their journey. Special vehicles – kind of like giant forklifts – get the job done.

“At any one time on a terminal you may see 40 to 60 of them operating,” says Kit Chope, vice president of sustainability for the Virginia Port Authority.

He says these carriers traditionally run on diesel. But over the past five years, the Port of Virginia has been experimenting with a handful of hybrid diesel electric vehicles as a way to reduce air pollution, carbon emissions, and noise.

“We went through some growing pains, quite frankly,” Chope says. “You know, we didn’t have the experience maintaining them, but we finally realized that that was a technology that we wanted to continue to invest in.”

Last fall, the port spent $23 million to buy 25 more low-emissions carriers. Chope says even though they’re more expensive, the added cost will be offset by the fuel savings.

“In about three to five years – depending on how they’re deployed and how they’re operated – it will pay for itself,” he says.

So he says investing in greener technology at ports can make economic sense and help clean up one part of the shipping industry.

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.