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  October 10th, 2016 | Written by

Shipping Lines Slowing Down in Santa Barbara Channel

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  • Ten shipping companies are participating in incentive program to reduce speeds in Santa Barbara Channel.
  • Shipping companies are reducing speeds to 12 knots or less.
  • Slowing ship speeds reduces air pollution and has been shown to reduce the risk of fatal strikes on whales.

The partners in an initiative to cut air pollution and protect whales announced today that 10 shipping companies are participating in an incentive program, voluntarily reducing speeds in the Santa Barbara Channel region to 12 knots or less. The program started July 1 and will continue until November 15, 2016.

Automatic Identification System (AIS) data for ship speeds for the July and August transits in the program verified that more than 75 percent of the enrolled transits were successful in reducing speeds to 12 knots or less, and four transits were successful in achieving an additional bonus incentive for slowing to 10 knots or less.

Ships emit greenhouse gases and air pollutants, and account for more than 50 percent of smog-forming nitrogen oxides emissions in Santa Barbara County and more than 25 percent in Ventura County. Ship strikes are also a major threat to recovering endangered and threatened whale populations, including blue, humpback, and fin whales. Slowing ship speeds reduces air pollution and has been shown to reduce the risk of fatal strikes on whales.

The following shipping companies are participating in the 2016 vessel speed reduction incentive program: CMA CGM, Evergreen, Hamburg Sud, Hapag Lloyd, Holland, K Line, Maersk, MOL, NYK Line, and Yang Ming. 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 positive response we have received demonstrates that this program is not only successful in protecting whales and reducing air pollution but also highly supported by the industry,” said Ted Lillestolen, NMSF interim President and CEO. “Now that we know this initiative works, we need to find additional resources to continue the effort.”

The incentives for the 2016 program are designed to target historically faster transits to achieve the most significant air emission and whale conservation benefits from the reduced speeds. Incentives range from $1,500 to $2,500 depending on historical speeds in the program area. Additional incentives up to $1,250 are 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 has been positive, with most companies electing to opt in on these 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.

“Since the shipping industry is regulated by national and international organizations, the only way for us as a local agency to address shipping emissions in our region is through innovative strategies,” said Mike Villegas, director of the Ventura County Air Pollution Control District. “The level of participation is very encouraging and demonstrates a sustained program would have a significant impact on air quality.”