While the Helen Delich Bentley Port of Baltimore continues to set records in terms of the amount of cargo moving through the port, it is also being recognized for its efforts helping the environment.
In 2017, the port was named a “Green Supply Chain Partner” by Inbound Logistics magazine and in May, it became the first North American port to host the GreenPort Congress, an international conference that gathered maritime professionals to discuss environmental initiatives and developments.
As part of it’s goal to reduce pollution and increase sustainability, the port has worked to improve air quality by reducing emissions of vehicles used around the port and keep pollution from entering area waterways. It is also using dredging material to increase wildlife areas around the Chesapeake Bay.
“From our nationally renowned dredging program to the exciting environmental initiatives we have on our marine terminals, the Port of Baltimore is committed to doing what we can to reduce our carbon footprint and continuing to integrate green programs into our daily business activities,” said Richard Scher, the port’s director of communications.
To help improve air quality throughout the region, port officials have been working on reducing emissions from transportation used at and around the port. Through participation in a Diesel Emissions Reduction Act grant from the U.S. Department of the Environment, it has replaced more than 170 dray trucks that move cargo at the port with newer models that reduce vehicle emissions. Even though cargo through port-owned terminals increased 10 percent between 2012 and 2016, emissions per ton of cargo decreased 23 percent.
The program also allows companies to have up to 25 percent of the cost for new vehicles covered and about 10 equipment owners had enrolled by early 2018. It also helped the Canton Railroad Company install idle-reduction technology in six switcher locomotives it runs at the port.
The port also partnered with Blue Water Baltimore to help plant 500 trees in the region, which help reduce and slow rainwater runoff and help clean the air by reducing carbon.
Port officials also have worked hard to keep trash and sediment from reaching the water. More than 160 tons of sediment have been collected through street sweeping and storm-drain monitoring at the terminals.
In June, Captain Trash Wheel became the third litter-fighting trash wheel to become active on the water around Baltimore. Captain Trash Wheel is anchored at a stream near the Masonville Cove Environmental Education Center and will help prevent debris and litter from entering the Middle Branch of the Patapsco River.
The port helped with funding for the trash wheels, which are owned by the Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore. Captain Trash Wheel is equipped with a 12-foot dumpster to gather trash and debris. During testing in May, it removed two-and-a-half dumpsters, totaling 3.7 tons.
Near the Dundalk Marine Terminal, the port is partnering on a test project aimed at cleaning the water and producing energy. Water from the Patapsco River is pumped into a 200-foot by 6-foot waterway where algae is allowed to grow. The algae removes nitrogen and phosphorus from the water before it is returned.
The algae is then harvested and broken down to produce a methane-enriched biogas able to power lights. According to scientists involved with the project, the algae produces close to 75 percent methane while they typically see 55 to 60 percent from manure. The goal is to make the entire system sustainable.
Dredging Material Management Program
More than 4.7 million cubic yards of sediment is dredged from shipping channels that run through the Chesapeake Bay to Baltimore each year. That sediment is being used in several locations to improve natural habitats for wildlife and also provide recreation uses for the public.
Many of the islands in the bay were suffering from erosion but have been rebuilt using the sediment. Poplar Island in the mid-Chesapeake Bay near Talbot County has been rebuilt to its original 1,150 acres. It is now a nesting home for Diamondback terrapins and more than 200 species of birds have been observed around the island.
Closer to Baltimore, Hart-Miller Island near the Back River has seen more than 1,100 acres restored and is now a state park. It is home to a wide range of wildlife and is accessible by personal boat for recreational and camping opportunities. There are more than eight miles of trails that circle a large pond and offer views of the bay.
Masonville Cove, in the Middle Branch of the Patapsco River, provides opportunities for the public to see many species of birds and waterfowl. The Port helped clean and restore the shoreline removing more than 25 abandoned vessels and more than 61,000 tons of trash. In 2013, Masonville Cove was named the first Urban Wildlife Refuge Partner by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The port is also exploring other ways to use dredge material including cover for landfills, soils amendments and engineered fill material. It has a long-term goal of recycling 500,000 cubic yards of material each year.
In May, Baltimore was the first North American port to host the GreenPort Congress. The conference included a session on measuring air emissions that examined the environmental effects of ships’ transits on air quality around ports. Other sessions looked at land redevelopment, managing dredge materials and the future of commercial vessels in the rapidly changing industry.