One marine transportation company that is out in front on the twin issues of energy usage and environmental sustainability for the nation's ports is Seattle's Saltchuk Resources.
Kicking-off the first-ever National Port Summit, Acting Maritime Administrator David Matsuda declared yesterday that "aging infrastructure, declining budgets, growing environmental sustainability and the changing outlook of international trade" are key issues affecting the nation's ports.
David advised that the nation's ports, working with MARAD, "should develop a strategy to move goods efficiently, with respect to transportation costs, delivery times, and energy usage."
Well, the folks at Saltchuk may have already cracked a couple of those challenges.
Saltchuk's Foss Maritime Company has developed a hybrid tugboat that uses an efficient combination of batteries, generators, and main diesel engines. The Hybrid Tug is both powerful and green, significantly reducing emissions compared with conventional tugs.
This is a potentially game-changing development for our nation's ports.
Emissions of nitrogen oxide, particulates, sulfur dioxide, and carbon have been linked to several health conditions, including aggravated asthma, and the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency claims that "particulate matter from diesel exhaust overwhelmingly presents the highest health risk in the Puget Sound area."
The Port of Long Beach, California, has aggressively sought improvements in local air quality. Perhaps that's why Saltchuk's Carolyn Dorothy, the hybrid tug that calls Long Beach home, was awarded the EPA’s Clean Air Excellence Award for Clean Air Technology in 2008.
You see, tugboats generally need full diesel power only during ship-assists, which comprise only about 12% of a tug's operating cycle. With its 126 batteries, what Saltchuk's management team calls "the Ford Escape of tugboats" only rarely needs to engage its diesels.
This flexible hybrid technology can be used to convert existing tugs of all types to hybrid vessels with lower emissions, improved fuel economy and lower maintenance costs. And much less noise.
The Saltchuk team says their technology could be applied in over 500 harbor tugs nationwide. "Hybrid tugs can become ubiquitous on the waterfront," says VP Tim Engle.
I look forward to the day when that potential is realized.