Sailing Toward Sustainability

Port of New Orleans and Port of South Louisiana share what they’re doing to go green.

Perspective Maritime

The maritime industry stands at a crossroads, a juncture where commerce meets conscience. As the world seeks solutions to climate change, Louisiana has embraced green fuels and has set a goal to achieve zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Climate change affects every industry, perhaps none more so than the maritime industry, which relies on the sea and coastal port cities — where subtle changes in climate may make a significant difference.

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The shipping industry in general is prioritizing sustainability. As one example, ocean carriers are investing in renewable fuel powered ships.

In New Orleans — no stranger to environmental disasters and extreme weather — local ports are recognizing the importance of sustainability and making waves as they make changes to their operations.

The Port of New Orleans (Port NOLA) has expressly stated its commitment. “We as a port, as well as the state of Louisiana, have a strategic focus on environmental initiatives and decarbonization across the supply chain,” said Kimberly Curth, Port NOLA press secretary.”

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As part of that commitment, through a clean energy economy. The shipping industry in general is also prioritizing sustainability. As one example, ocean carriers are investing in renewable fueled powered ships.

But it’s one thing to issue a press release committing to new practices; it’s another thing to put those words into action. Curth pointed to concrete examples that she said demonstrates the port’s commitment.

“Our second container terminal, the $1.8 billion ‘Louisiana International Terminal’ in Violet, which is in the design and permitting phase, will incorporate the latest green technologies,” she said. “That includes shore power, allowing vessels to plug in at the dock, eliminating the need to run diesel engines. This can cut local vessel emissions by up to 98%. Operators also plan to invest in an electrified equipment fleet, further reducing local emissions impacts.”

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Curth said that, like the Uptown facilities, the Louisiana International Terminal will also be equipped to provide container-on-barge services, which move containers by water rather than road to reduce air emissions. Port NOLA’s current container-on-barge service has reduced more than 11,000 short tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and saved 1 million gallons of diesel fuel. The container-on-barge service moves an average of 30,000 TEUs per year between New Orleans, Port Allen, Memphis and now St. Louis.

Port NOLA also won an EPA award for its “Clean Truck Replacement Incentive Program” or Clean TRIP, which continues to reduce emissions with more than 100 trucks that have been replaced with cleaner burning engines to improve air quality. The program offers a 50% cost incentive ($35,000 maximum) for the voluntary replacement of drayage trucks that service cargo terminals and warehouses within the entirety of Port NOLA’s jurisdiction of Jefferson, Orleans and St. Bernard parishes.

Since Port NOLA launched the Clean TRIP program in 2016, it has reduced fine particulate emissions from each truck by 96% — the equivalent of removing more than 116,000 cars from the road.

Additionally, SEACOR container-on-barge service has reduced 9.7 million kg in CO2 emissions and saved 1 million gallons of diesel fuel. This isn’t just an environmental win; it’s proof that sustainability makes economic sense within the maritime industry.

“We have also focused on greening our rail operation: The New Orleans Public Belt (NOPB) railroad is also focused on greening rail operations,” Curth said. “NOPB has 10 EPA-classified Tier 1 locomotives in their fleet, which replaced older locomotives in 2020. NOPB has also deployed 45 solar-powered switches across its network.”

Because of its efforts, Port NOLA has been Green Marine Green Port Certified since 2015 and now four major port tenants are also Green Marine certified — a voluntary environmental certification program for the North American maritime industry.

And Port NOLA isn’t the only local port striving to become more sustainable. Under the direction of CEO Paul Matthews, the Port of South Louisiana (PortSL) is also prioritizing energy diversity. Currently, PortSL is the second-ranked energy transfer port in the nation.

“The global shipping industry is changing. Creating reliability and efficiencies in the supply chain are a top priority for companies and ports alike. We are home to some of the globe’s most recognizable companies and our team has partnered with industry as they make major investments in sustainability.”
– Micah Cormier, PortSL director of communications

Cormier also pointed to concrete examples of their commitment. PortSL has the nation’s first hydrogen fueling barge. Their new headquarters building was designed and built to have the latest technology in energy efficiency. The port also has two brand new Konecranes that are much more efficient unloading cargo more quickly with less downtime.

Cormier said PortSL is also working with federal and state partners to construct a new exit and interchange at I-10, as well as a road that will lead straight to the Globalplex facility. “This will reduce truck traffic in neighboring LaPlace and reduce emissions with only one stoplight from the interstate to Globalplex,” he said.

With innovations like shore power, container-on-barge services, and the Clean Truck Replacement Incentive Program, New Orleans is proving that sustainability isn’t a dream; it’s a reality. It’s not just about cargo; it’s about our planet’s cargo — a cargo of hope for a brighter, cleaner tomorrow.

Did you know? The International Maritime Organization is aiming to reduce total emissions from international shipping by 50% between 2008 and 2050.


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