Twenty three shipping companies participated in Protecting Blue Whales & Blue Skies vessel speed reduction program in 2022, contributing to cleaner air, safer whales, and a quieter ocean.
Companies are recognized for their vessels transiting at ten knots or less in the San Francisco Bay Area and the Southern California region. The program’s Southern California region extends from Point Arguello (in Santa Barbara County) to waters near Port Hueneme and Dana Point (by the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach).
Participation was greater than any previous year, and increased from eighteen shipping companies participating in 2021. Shipping companies received recognition and financial awards based on the percent of distance traveled by their vessels through the Vessel Speed Reduction (VSR) zones at 10 knots or less and with an average speed of 12 knots or less.
Their voluntary efforts to reduce speeds have again translated to significant benefits for air quality and endangered whales. This program continues to show what great things can happen when local, state, national, and international organizations collaborate.
… said Aeron Arlin Genet, Air Pollution Control Officer, Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District
Highlights of the 2022 program:
Of the 344,000 nautical miles of ocean transited by all the ships in the program, nearly 270,000 nautical miles were at 10 knots or less, which is equivalent to traversing the circumference of the Earth more than ten times.
Ships in the program transiting the southern California approximately 200-nautical-mile VSR zone traveled at 10 knots or less for 79% of the total miles traveled.
In the approximately 100-nautical-mile San Francisco Bay Area VSR zone – which was expanded in 2022, cooperation levels from the participating companies rose to 72%, up from 60% in 2021.
Shipping companies that participated in the 2022 program reduced their air pollutant emissions by approximately 920 tons of NOx and 32,000 metric tons of regional GHGs.
The transits of vessels participating in the VSR program posed approximately 44% less strike mortality risk to whales than if those vessels did not slow in cooperation with the program.
Ships in the Sapphire, Gold, and Blue Sky award tiers had sound levels that were 4.6 dB per transit lower when compared to 2021 baseline source levels. With a reduction in noise pollution, whales can likely communicate easier.
Incentives ranged from $2,500 to $20,000 per company in the Gold and Sapphire award tiers.
Fourteen companies – Orient Overseas Shipping Line (OOCL), Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), COSCO Shipping Line, CSL Group, Ocean Network Express (ONE), Maersk, “K” Line, Wallenius Wilhelmsen, Wan Hai, Evergreen Shipping, Swire Shipping, Hapag Lloyd, GALI, and Yang Ming – generously declined all or part of their financial incentive payments. Those funds will be used for additional public recognition efforts and reinvested in the program.
The ten-knot target complements the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), U.S. Coast Guard, and Environmental Protection Agency requests for all vessels (300 gross tons or larger) to reduce speeds during the months of peak air pollution and endangered blue, humpback, and fin whale abundance to protect these whales from ship strikes.
The survival of these endangered whales is up to all of us. The success of this program hinges on the shipping industry’s willingness to advance whale conservation and promote cleaner air, while conducting commerce, in partnership with agencies and nonprofits.
…said Maria Brown, Superintendent, Greater Farallones and Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuaries
The timing of the program also coincides with the season when ground-level ozone (smog) concentrations are typically high. The 10-knot target allows ships to travel at an efficient operating load using less fuel and producing less pollution. Ocean-going vessels transiting the California coast generate nitrogen oxides (NOx, a precursor to smog), sulfur oxides (SOx), particle pollution, and greenhouse gasses (GHGs).
Ocean-going vessels contribute over 40 percent of the nitrogen oxides emitted in Ventura County and the associated outer continental shelf area. The program expansion to include bulk and general cargo ships will help us address a larger share of these emissions in a voluntary manner.
… said Ali R. Ghasemi, Air Pollution Control Officer, Ventura County Air Pollution Control District
These vessels account for nearly 200 tons of NOx per day emitted off the coast of California, which affects ozone levels onshore in many regions of the state. The areas of greater Los Angeles (including Ventura County), Santa Barbara County, and the San Francisco Bay do not meet the state and/or federal air quality standards for ozone.
The three award tiers are Sapphire (85-100% of fleet total distance in VSR zones traveled at ten knots or less), Gold (60-84%), and Blue Sky (35-59%). Automatic Identification System (AIS) transponders on each ship transmit the ship’s speed and location. AIS data was analyzed for each fleet and the company’s performance was classified by tier. Companies that performed at the Gold or Sapphire level were offered a financial incentive.
Eight participating companies reached the Sapphire level, the most in the top category since the program began. They include Orient Overseas Container Line (OOCL), Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), Swire Shipping, Yang Ming, COSCO Shipping, NYK Ro-Ro, Wallenius Wilhelmsen, and CSL Group.
We especially commend those companies that declined their incentives, which truly shows their support of conservation along the coast. We hope that many more will follow their commitment to significantly improve ocean and human health for future generations.
… said Lisa Volgenau, Vice President and Board Director, The Volgenau Foundation
This year’s program
The 2023 program runs May 1 through December 15, 2023. This will be the biggest season yet for whale protection and clean air, with tanker operators invited to join. Expansion of the San Francisco VSR zone will extend the area by approximately 130 miles to include all of Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.
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