Port’s Focus on Sustainability Earns Environmental Awards from Norfolk Southern, Elizabeth River Project

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Port Honored with Thoroughbred Sustainability Partner and River Star Awards

February 14, 2023

NORFOLK, VA – 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 Sta Business Award, 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 through 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.  

“It’s an honor to be recognized for what we are doing in terms of sustainability and this type of recognition 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, the US East Coast’s premiere port complex, and a very important part of this effort is our investment in and commitment to environmental sustainability.

“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 are important to us.”

Since 2001, ERP has recognized the port for pollution prevention, storm water 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 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 means 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.


The Virginia Port Authority (VPA) is a political subdivision of the Commonwealth of Virginia. The VPA owns and through its private operating subsidiary, Virginia International Terminals, LLC (VIT), operates four general cargo facilities Norfolk International Terminals, Portsmouth Marine Terminal, Newport News Marine Terminal and the Virginia Inland Port in Warren County. The VPA leases Virginia International Gateway and Richmond Marine Terminal. A recent economic impact study from The College of William and Mary shows that The Port of Virginia helps to create more than 400,000 jobs and generated $92 billion in total economic impact throughout the Commonwealth on an annual basis.