Ship management company

Global shipping companies have reduced speeds off the California coast to protect blue whales and blue skies – YubaNet

Partners in an initiative to reduce air pollution and protect endangered whales have announced the results of the 2021 program “Protect Blue Whales and Blue Skies”. Eighteen shipping companies participated, transiting at 10 knots or less in the San Francisco Bay Area and Southern California region. The program’s Southern California region extends from Point Arguello (in Santa Barbara County) to the waters near Dana Point (near the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach).

The voluntary incentive program ran from May 15, 2021 to November 15, 2021.

Shipping companies receive recognition and financial rewards based on the percentage of distance traveled by their vessels in vessel speed reduction (VSR) zones at 10 knots or less and an average speed of 12 knots or less. The 10-knot goal complements requests from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Coast Guard that all vessels (300 gross tons or more) reduce speed during months of peak blue whale abundance. , humpback and endangered commons in order to protect them. whales from ship strikes.

Two blue whales in the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary_NOAA

Ship strikes are a major threat to whales around the world and to the recovery of endangered blue, common and humpback whales in California waters. Reducing the risk of ship strikes is a top priority for NOAA, including NOAA’s West Coast National Marine Sanctuaries. Observed and documented deaths totaled 51 endangered whales from 2007 to 2021 and likely represent only a small fraction of the total number of ship strikes that occur each year.

The timing of the program also coincides with the season when ground-level ozone (smog) concentrations are generally high. The 10 knot target allows ships to travel at an efficient operational load using less fuel and producing less pollution. Ocean-going ships transiting the California coast generate nitrogen oxides (NOx, a precursor to smog), sulfur oxides (SOx), particulate pollution and greenhouse gases (GHGs). These vessels account for nearly 200 tons of NOx per day emitted off the coast of California, which affects ozone levels ashore in many parts of the state. Areas of Greater Los Angeles (including Ventura County), Santa Barbara County and the San Francisco Bay Area do not meet state and/or federal air quality standards for ‘ozone.

Three tiers of prizes reward participating companies based on the percentage of distance their fleet travels in VSR zones at speeds of 10 knots or less. The three reward tiers are Sapphire (85-100% of the total fleet distance in VSR zones covered at 10 knots or less), Gold (60-84%) and Blue Sky (35-59%). Each vessel’s Automatic Identification System (AIS) transponders transmit the vessel’s speed and location; AIS data was analyzed for each fleet and company performance was ranked by level. Companies that performed at Gold or Sapphire level received a financial incentive.

For the fourth consecutive year, Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) notably obtained the Sapphire tier in the large fleet category and demonstrated that planning allows ships to reduce their speed in VSR zones without disrupting operations. In 2021, MSC sailed over 23,000 nautical miles at 10 knots or less. Swire Shipping achieved Sapphire level in the small fleet category with 1,500 nautical miles at 10 knots or less. For their exceptional commitment, these two companies won the Protecting Blue Whales and Blue Skies Whale Tail award.

The VSR incentive program has expanded its reach and environmental benefits each year, including 2021, which marked the seventh year. Highlights of the 2021 program include:

  • Of the nearly 280,000 nautical miles of ocean transited by all the ships in the program, nearly 180,000 nautical miles were at 10 knots or less, which is equivalent to traveling more than eight times the circumference of the Earth.
  • Program vessels transiting the approximately 200 nautical mile VSR zone of Southern California traveled at 10 knots or less for 66% of total miles flown. This number has steadily increased season after season (in 2017, approximately 21% of miles were sailed at 10 knots or less). This shows the growing commitment of participating companies over the years.
  • In the 50 nautical mile VSR zone of San Francisco Bay, levels of cooperation from participating companies remained fairly consistent from previous years with a combined value of 60%.
  • Shipping companies that participated in the 2021 program reduced air pollutant emissions by 650 tonnes of NOx and 22,201 metric tonnes of regional GHGs. (For example, this is equivalent to the GHG emissions of 4,784 passenger vehicles driven for one year, or the amount of GHG produced by charging more than 2.7 billion smartphones.) These figures represent a reduction of approximately 25% NOx pollution from participating vessels. in the program, compared to baseline conditions.
  • Transits by ships participating in the VSR program posed about 50% less risk of collision mortality for whales than if those ships did not slow down in cooperation with the program.
  • Sapphire, Gold, and Blue Sky reward level vessels had sound levels 5 dB lower per transit than baseline source levels. With a reduction in noise pollution, whales can probably communicate more easily.
  • Incentives ranged from $5,000 to $50,000 per company in the Gold and Sapphire reward tiers.
  • Six companies – COSCO Shipping Lines, Maersk, Ocean Network Express (ONE), Wallenius Wilhelmsen, Yang Ming and Swire Shipping – generously declined their financial incentive. These funds will be used for additional public recognition efforts and reinvested in the program.

The program is a collaborative effort of the Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District; Ventura County Air Pollution Control District; Bay Area Air Quality Management District; the Channel Islands, Cordell Bank and Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuaries; The Volgenau Foundation; California Marine Sanctuary Foundation; National Marine Sanctuary Foundation; Greater Farallones Association; Environmental Defense Center; Blue tip conservation science; Starcrest Council; and Scripps Whale Acoustic Laboratory/Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

The 2022 program runs from May 1 to December 15, 2022. For more information, visit