Ships Slow to Protect Whales and Cut Emissions

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Recognition ceremony sponsors and participants (left to right): Steven D. Gaines (National Marine Sanctuary Foundation Trustee, and Dean for UCSB Bren School of Environmental Science & Management), Jessica Morten (with NOAA's Channel Islands National Mari

By MarEx 2017-01-25 18:36:57

Ten shipping companies have been recognized for their participation in an initiative to cut air pollution and protect whales in Santa Barbara, California.

The shipping companies that participated are: CMA CGM, Evergreen, Hamburg Sud, Hapag Lloyd, Holland, K Line, Maersk, MOL, NYK Line and Yang Ming. The companies’ ships reduced speed in the Santa Barbara Channel region to 12 knots or less. The program started July 1 and ended November 15, 2016.  

With two of the busiest ports in the world, thousands of vessels travel through the Santa Barbara Channel and the Channel Island National Marine Sanctuary. Ships account for more than 50 percent of NOx emissions in Santa Barbara County and for more than 25 percent of NOx emissions in Ventura County. The program reduced more than 27 tons of emissions of NOx and more than 1,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases.

Ship strikes are also a major threat to recovering endangered and threatened whale populations, including blue, humpback, and fin whales. 

The incentives for the 2016 program targeted historically faster transits to achieve the most significant air emission and whale conservation benefits from the reduced speeds. Incentives ranged from $1,500 to $2,500 depending on historical speeds in the program area. Additional incentives up to $1,250 were available for ships that slow to 10 knots or less, submit detailed whale sightings reports and demonstrate that schedules were adjusted so that the ships did not need to speed up elsewhere along the route.

Response to this variable incentive scale was positive, with most companies electing to opt in on additional voluntary measures and some choosing to even go beyond what they’re being asked to do. One example is K Line, whose captains and crew have regularly provided photos and annotated maps of all whale sightings along with the requested whale sightings report. 

In addition, more than 90 percent of the companies whose ships traverse the California coast indicated interest in participating in a Bay Area program in the future if one is offered.

The program is a collaborative effort by the Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District, NOAA’s Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, Ventura County Air Pollution Control District, National Marine Sanctuary Foundation and Volgenau Foundation. The partners are working on identifying funding sources for a 2017 incentive program, expected to start June 1, 2017.