Protecting Blue Whales and Blue Skies

The application materials for the 2020 VSR program are now available. The 2020 program began on May 15 and will last until November 15, 2020.
For information on previous programs, see the 2019 Fact Sheet.

picture-this-whaleEvery year, container ships and auto carriers make thousands of transits in the shipping lanes in the Santa Barbara Channel region and along the California coast.  These vessels are a significant source of air pollution and ship strikes on endangered blue, humpback, and fin whales.  The Vessel Speed Reduction incentive program is a voluntary program where the District and its partners ask the vessel operators to slow down to a speed of 10 knots or less, which reduces air pollution and fatal strikes on endangered whales.

2020 Shipping Company Participation Documents

Cover LetterLetter of Understanding
/ Sign-up Form
Zone Maps Report Whale Sightings 

* Fillable PDF on page 4. If you have trouble filling out the pdf in your browser, download the form and open it with your Adobe Acrobat Reader. 

2019 Program Results

Fifteen shipping companies slowed to protect blue whales and blue skies, cutting more than 530 tons of smog-forming emissions.

The voluntary incentive program, where companies were asked to reduce speeds to 10 knots or less in both the Santa Barbara Channel Region and in the San Francisco Bay Area, started on May 15 and ended on November 15, 2019. This season, we saw a tremendous effort by all the companies that participated: 4 companies earned the sapphire award, 7 companies earned the gold award, 2 companies earned the silver award, and 2 companies earned the bronze award. See news release issued May 19, 2020

Notably, MSC, Hapag-Lloyd, Polynesia Line, and GALI all achieved the sapphire award for slowing down more than 75% of their fleets in both regions. The combined efforts from all the companies helped reduce approximately 536 tons of smog-forming nitrogen oxides (NOx) and more than 17,000 metric tons of regional greenhouse gases while making the waters safer for the endangered whales. For a comparison on how the program has been growing throughout the years, please see the table below or view the 2019 Fact Sheet.

Recent Developments

  • In recognition of this program’s success, California State Senator Scott Wiener included VSR in California Senate Bill 69, which would direct the California Air Resources Board to develop a similar voluntary VSR program in coordination with affected air districts and the national marine sanctuary program. This bill would provide much-needed support from the state.
  • International Maritime Organization initial strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from ships adopted April 13, 2018
  • 2017 study on ship strikes and whale mortality on the West Coast

For more information and background on the VSR program, see Addressing Air Pollution from Marine Shipping




For more information and background on the VSR program, see Addressing Air Pollution from Marine Shipping