Euronav Adopts Whale-Protection Rules Fleetwide

File image courtesy NOAA

Published Feb 21, 2022 11:16 PM by The Maritime Executive

Top tanker operator Euronav has asked all of its captains to adhere to voluntary whale-protection measures in three critical habitat areas, the company announced last week. The order applies to protected areas of the Canadian East Coast, the California coast and the Hellenic Trench, and it is intended to minimize ship strikes and associated whale mortality. 

Two endangered species, the North Atlantic right whale and the Eastern Mediterranean sperm whale, are known to be affected by ship strikes. Standard voluntary measures for shipping in the vicinity of key whale habitat areas exist, but are not universally followed. Euronav plans to change that - initially in three regions, with the expectation of expanding to cover more. 

"Our ships will stay out of critical habitats where these whales breed, feed and nurse their offspring. These deviations have very little negative economic impact for shipowners, including ourselves, so avoiding these areas is really a question of paying attention to the issue rather than making a big economic sacrifice," said Euronav CEO Hugo De Stoop. "These three areas are the start, but we are looking into other regions around the world where our ships regularly pass."

De Stoop said that his hope is that other shipping companies will follow suit if the policy turns out to be straightforward to implement. If it works in practical application, it could prompt policymakers to make the measures mandatory and ensure a level playing field for all ship owners, he said. 

Euronav worked with an NGO, the Great Whale Conservancy, to identify the first areas it would list for protection. 

"If other shipping companies follow Euronav’s lead, we will be more than happy to assist them. We have the scientific and nautical experience in our team to assist any shipping company in this matter. We strongly believe that this problem can only be solved from within the industry," said Michael Fishbach, founder of the Great Whale Conservancy.