By Mark Edward Nero
Participants in an initiative to cut air pollution and protect whales have announced results from the 2016 voluntary incentive program and publicly recognized 10 shipping companies that participated, reducing speeds in the Santa Barbara Channel region to 12 knots or less.
The program, which started July 1 and ended Nov. 15, 2016, saw the following shipping companies participate 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.
A recognition ceremony took place recently at the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council meeting in Santa Barbara, located about 95 miles north of Los Angeles.
The program was 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.
Automatic identification system data for ship speeds in the program verified that more than 80 percent of the enrolled transits were successful in reducing speeds to 12 knots or less, and transits were successful in achieving an additional bonus incentive for slowing to 10 knots or less. The program reduced more than 27 tons of emissions of nitrogen oxides and more than 1,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases.
Ships account for more than 50 percent of NOx emissions in Santa Barbara County and over 25 percent of NOx emissions 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.
“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. These vessels pose collision threats to large whales,” explained Kris Sarri, president and CEO of the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation.
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.
The partners said they’re now working on identifying funding sources for a 2017 VSR incentive program, expected to start June 1.