14 June 2017

Ocean Freight Container Lines Praised for Watching Out for Right Whales  

Box Shippers Cut Speeds in the Name of Preservation

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Shipping News Feature NORTH AMERICA –Two of the world's largest ocean freight companies have been recognised for their efforts to protect the one of the most endangered species on the planet. Collisions between the North Atlantic Right whales and large shipping vessels are one of the leading causes of death for these rare whales and hinder the recovery of their entire species of approximately only 500 individuals. As we have written at length before, as a protection measure mariners are required to travel at ten knots or less in designated Right whale habitat areas and their speed is monitored.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary (SBNMS) last week released a report card summary on shipping company speed compliance over the past two years, dubbed the Right Whale Corporate Responsibility Project. Patrick Ramage IFAW Director of Marine Conservation, observed:

“More and more shipping companies and mariners are taking speed restrictions seriously; that is good news for endangered Right whales. Our goal is 100% A+ and we congratulate COSCO and MSC for leading by example.”

Two companies, China COSCO Shipping Corporation and Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) led the industry with the strongest results. More than 2,000 total transits were evaluated involving 220 vessels and 149 companies in 2015, and 211 vessels and 145 companies in 2016. Analysis led by SBNMS research coordinator Dr. David Wiley and spatial ecologist Michael Thompson showed significant improvements in compliance during the two year period. In 2015, 72% of vessels achieved A or A+ ratings, with 83% of vessels achieving such ratings in 2016. On the down side, 15% of companies are still at or below C-level with 79% compliance or less.

Trips were tracked and ships, along with their corresponding companies, were notified and provided with a grade depending on how closely they adhered to the provisions of NOAA’s ship strike rule. Companies and ships that earned grades of A+ or A with 90-100% compliance were awarded Corporate Responsibility Certificates to acknowledge their whale protection efforts Claudio Bozzo, Chief Operating Officer at MSC, commented:

“As a company committed to safety and corporate responsibility worldwide, MSC is pleased to be recognised for our performance in helping protect endangered Right whales and marine habitat.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the government agency in charge of protecting Right whales, promulgated the Right whale Ship Strike Reduction Rule in 2008 to reduce the risk of serious injury and lethal collisions between ships and whales by requiring ships to reduce their speed to 10 knots or less in specially delineated Seasonal Management Areas (SMAs). Two of those areas - Cape Cod Bay SMA and Off Race Point SMA - are off the coast of Massachusetts and overlap the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. Howard Finkel Vice President, COSCO Shipping North America, said:

“COSCO Shipping is committed to doing our part to protect whales and the marine environment. We are gratified by this recognition of our vessels, mariners and crews in delivering on that commitment.”

To increase mariner awareness and improve the ability of some vessels to comply with whale protection measures, IFAW, NOAA and the app development company Conserve IO have teamed to produce Whale Alert, a free smartphone app. Whale Alert displays Right whale management measures for vessel operators on easy to read nautical charts and warns mariners when they enter a management area. Whale Alert also acts as a citizen science tool. Using Whale Alert mariners, recreational boaters and others on shore can report sighting of any whales directly to a database used by scientists.

Photo: Divers assessing a pod of Right whales. You can judge the size of a North Atlantic Right whale using the ‘How Big is Big?’ link here.

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