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International Chamber of Shipping Announce Successful Collaboration to Reduce Harm to Whales

24th October 2022
ICS is engouraging the shipping industry to take action on reducing harm to endangered whales
ICS is engouraging the shipping industry to take action on reducing harm to endangered whales Credit: shippingICS-twitter

The global trade association for shipowners and operators, the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) are encouraging the shipping industry to take action to reduce the risk of harm to endangered whale species.

This is an issue that the shipping industry takes seriously and has resulted in the implementation of measures that aim to prevent collisions between whales and ships, from reducing vessel speed and rerouting to engaging stakeholders to raise further awareness.

Significant steps have already been taken by the industry to help protect marine mammals. This includes areas around the world where speed limits apply to vessels, such as the St Lawrence River in Canada and the Gibraltar straits. There is also guidance on ‘Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas’ which provide caution to mariners on ‘whale avoidance’. Shipowners are encouraged to follow the relevant national and international guidance.

  • National associations and shipping companies have been implementing the use of mitigation measures to reduce the risk of harm to endangered whale species.
  • ICS encourages the shipping industry to continue to build on these steps that have been taken.
  • Collaboration is needed to review maritime guidelines and protect marine life.

The German Shipowners’ Association (VDR) announced this summer its support of two whale protection initiatives by the NGOs OceanCare and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). Both initiatives aim to protect whales by rerouting ships to avoid areas at high risk of collisions. The OceanCare initiative aims to protect sperm whales in the Eastern Mediterranean, and the IFAW initiative aims to protect blue whales in the coastal waters off the southern tip of Sri Lanka.

“After having been approached by the NGOs asking for our support of both their initiatives, we eagerly embraced the NGOs’ proposal and discussed it with our members,” said Dr Martin Kröger, Chief Executive Officer of the VDR. “The feedback has unambiguously indicated that we are all happy to take minor diversions to protect the whales there.” The VDR’s more than 150 member companies have now been officially asked to reroute their ships to avoid these critical whale habitats.

Christian Naegeli, the VDR’s Marine Advisor on Maritime Safety, Nautical & Technical Affairs, and the Environment, added:“There are possibilities to bypass the whales’ habitats by just a few nautical miles in both places – safely, legally, and without much extra effort or expense.”

Nicolas Entrup, Director of International Relations at OceanCare, said: “Re-routing saves whales’ lives and we truly appreciate the steps taken by VDR, but also shipping companies themselves, such as MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company. The science-based approach to identify important marine mammal areas such as the Hellenic Trench and the waters south of Sri Lanka allows the shipping sector to take action, but also provides guidance to policy makers”.

The IFAW and OceanCare initiative complement the initiative of the World Shipping Council and the ICS at the International Maritime Organization (IMO), to move the Traffic Separation Scheme off the southern tip of Sri Lanka further offshore to reduce the risk of collisions between ships and whale species. The IMO has been working with lawmakers and professional associations, including ICS, to update its guidelines on the protection of whales.

Shipping companies have been putting guidance into practice. MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company this year became the largest shipping company to reroute shipping lanes in the Mediterranean and Sri Lanka, areas known as hotspots for whale activity. The modifications were made following advice from scientists in the maritime sector.

Stefania Lallai, Vice President Sustainability at MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company, said: “We believe that the commercial shipping sector has an important role to play in reducing the risk of ship collisions with whales through re-routing, speed reduction and other measures. By keeping away from certain zones where the most vulnerable endangered whales are present, we can help play our part in protecting marine wildlife and preserving ecosystems, always following the advice of scientists and assessing navigation safety in advance.

“We believe that raising awareness of these issues and encouraging collaboration between industry, scientific bodies, civil society and governments is essential as we strive collectively to do more to minimise the risk of ship strikes.”

The impact of ship induced underwater radiated noise on marine mammals has also been an area of concern. Noise caused by shipping can disrupt whales’ ability to navigate underwater, leading to difficulty finding food and communicating with each other. Reducing vessel speeds not only reduces the likelihood of ships striking whales, it has a beneficial effect on the level of underwater noise.

Guy Platten, ICS Secretary General, commented: “Whales are a vulnerable and endangered species. The ocean is their home, and we must make sure that international shipping activities are mindful of their presence. It is really positive to see our members working with NGOs on initiatives that address this serious issue. There is always more that can be done, and that is why we are working with the IMO, and other stakeholders on reviewing maritime guidelines.”

Published in Marine Wildlife
Jehan Ashmore

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Jehan Ashmore

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Jehan Ashmore is a marine correspondent, researcher and photographer, specialising in Irish ports, shipping and the ferry sector serving the UK and directly to mainland Europe. Jehan also occasionally writes a column, 'Maritime' Dalkey for the (Dalkey Community Council Newsletter) in addition to contributing to UK marine periodicals. 

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Marine Wildlife Around Ireland One of the greatest memories of any day spent boating around the Irish coast is an encounter with marine wildlife.  It's a thrill for young and old to witness seabirds, seals, dolphins and whales right there in their own habitat. As boaters fortunate enough to have experienced it will testify even spotting a distant dorsal fin can be the highlight of any day afloat.  Was that a porpoise? Was it a whale? No matter how brief the glimpse it's a privilege to share the seas with Irish marine wildlife.

Thanks to the location of our beautiful little island, perched in the North Atlantic Ocean there appears to be no shortage of marine life to observe.

From whales to dolphins, seals, sharks and other ocean animals this page documents the most interesting accounts of marine wildlife around our shores. We're keen to receive your observations, your photos, links and youtube clips.

Boaters have a unique perspective and all those who go afloat, from inshore kayaking to offshore yacht racing that what they encounter can be of real value to specialist organisations such as the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) who compile a list of sightings and strandings. The IWDG knowledge base has increased over the past 21 years thanks in part at least to the observations of sailors, anglers, kayakers and boaters.

Thanks to the IWDG work we now know we share the seas with dozens of species who also call Ireland home. Here's the current list: Atlantic white-sided dolphin, beluga whale, blue whale, bottlenose dolphin, common dolphin, Cuvier's beaked whale, false killer whale, fin whale, Gervais' beaked whale, harbour porpoise, humpback whale, killer whale, minke whale, northern bottlenose whale, northern right whale, pilot whale, pygmy sperm whale, Risso's dolphin, sei whale, Sowerby's beaked whale, sperm whale, striped dolphin, True's beaked whale and white-beaked dolphin.

But as impressive as the species list is the IWDG believe there are still gaps in our knowledge. Next time you are out on the ocean waves keep a sharp look out!