Port shipper wins state environmental award

Washington Governor Christine Gregoire has honored Totem Ocean Trailer Express (TOTE) of Tacoma and Federal Way with the 2005 Governor’s Award for Pollution Prevention & Sustainable Practices, the state’s highest honor for taking care of the environment while doing business in Washington.

The awards recognize businesses and others who have found innovative ways to offer services and make products while reducing or eliminating hazardous waste and conserving vital resources such as energy and water.

The five winners also were honored for business practices that are “sustainable” – that is, they support the vitality of the economy, the environment and the community. Tom Fitzsimmons, Gov. Christine Gregoire’s chief of staff, and Jay Manning, the Department of Ecology director, presented the awards.

TOTE runs a regular transport service between Tacoma and Anchorage, Alaska. The company has reduced its use of toxic chemicals and fuel. It protects the marine environment and supports local communities.

TOTE’s U.S.-built ships are designed to carry more cargo, use less fuel and provide greater environmental protection than the company’s previous vessels. The more efficient diesel-electric motors reduced fuel use by 30 percent, or 5,000 less barrels per week.

The ships have redundant rudder steering systems, redundant monitors and alarms on the fuel tanks, and extra spill-equipment lockers. Two of the engines can be worked on while the ship is underway without threatening the integrity of the power plant.

The ships also have an internal fresh water ballast system so they do not have to take on or discharge seawater for ballast. This avoids introducing invasive species to local waters. They have desalinization plants, so reclaimed salt water is used for all fresh water purposes on board. The ships have state-of-the-art sewage treatment plants and use only biodegradable soap, detergents and degreasers on board.

On their return trips to Tacoma, the TOTE ships carry recyclables for processing, electronic waste for proper disposal and used clothing, all for free. The Alaska recycling organization values the recyclables transport alone at more than $1 million each year.

“These winners are our role models for the future,” said Fitzsimmons. “They show that we can design a new and better future, a future that does not depend on practices that gradually erode our natural resource base.”

The judges who selected the winners included past award recipients, energy and pollution-prevention experts, and representatives from labor and environmental groups.

The judges evaluated the entries based on innovations to reduce toxic materials and waste and use less energy and water, as well as other ways they have protected the environment.