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11 August 2014 | Paul Snell
Global shipping companies have agreed to cut the speed of their vessels in an attempt to improve the environment and protect whales off the coast of California in the US.
Six firms - COSCO, Hapag Lloyd, K Line, Maersk, Matson and United Arab Shipping Company - are participating in a trial which will see them dropping their speed to 12 knots or less, from the usual 12 to 18 knots, when travelling through the Santa Barbara Channel in return for $2,500 (£1,487).
Slowing ships down reduces fuel consumption and engine load, cutting the emission of pollutants. Research by the University of California, Riverside found a 50 per cent reduction in emissions when ships travelled at 12 knots.
Around 2,500 ships travel through the channel each year, significantly contributing to air pollutants. They also come into contact with whales – including humpback, blue and fin - which feed and travel in the shipping lanes. The close proximity can result in “ship strikes” which can be fatal for the mammals.
The pilot, which has been developed by the Santa Barbara Air Pollution Control District, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary and the Environmental Defense Center, follows similar initiatives at the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports and will run until 31 October.
“Slowing ships down reduces the likelihood that a ship strike on a whale will be fatal,” said Chris Mobley, superintendent for the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary.
“We are extremely pleased with the positive response from the shipping industry to test non-regulatory, innovative approaches to protect human health and the marine environment while maintaining vibrant maritime commerce.”