Please note that although the incentive VSR program concluded, endangered whales are still present along the California coast. The NOAA and U.S. Coast Guard voluntary Vessel Speed Reduction request remains in effect in the Southern California region through December 15, 2021.
Every 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, fatal strikes on endangered whales, and ocean noise.
2021 Program Results
Global shipping companies reduced speeds off California coast to protect blue whales and blue skies. Program continues to expand and achieve environmental benefits
The 2021 VSR Program was implemented successfully from May 15 to November 15, 2021, as it included 545 vessels operated by 18 different shipping companies. For the 2021 Program, the requirements to reach each award tier were increased by 10% (i.e., Sapphire award starts at 85% fleet participation at 10 knots or less instead of 75% ). And for the fourth year in a row, Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) was able to achieve the Sapphire tier, demonstrating that ships can reduce speeds in VSR zones without disrupting operations. MSC traveled more than 23,000 nautical miles at 10 knots or less for the 2021 Program. Swire Shipping also achieved the Sapphire tier with 1,500 nautical miles at 10 knots or less. For their outstanding commitment, these two companies earned the Protecting Blue Whales and Blue Skies Whale Tail award.
Thank you to all of the participants, as your contributions help reduce air pollution, lower the risk of fatal ship strikes on endangered whale populations, and reduce ocean noise that can interfere with whale communication and feeding.
2020 Program Results
Sixteen shipping companies slowed to protect blue whales and blue skies, cutting over 700 tons of smog-forming emissions.
The voluntary incentive program, where companies were asked to reduce speeds to 10 knots or less in both the Southern California Region and in the San Francisco Bay Area, started on May 15 and ended on November 15, 2020. For the 2020 season, the VSR zones were greatly expanded by including more navigable waters in Southern California. Even though the incentives remained largely the same, the companies rose to the challenge and slowed their ships down even more than previous years, further reducing air pollution and making the ocean safer and quieter for whales. Five companies earned the coveted sapphire award and nine companies earned the gold award. The Blue Whales and Blue Skies partners appreciate all the effort that these companies have been making, and recognition advertisements will be coordinated throughout the year to celebrate their continued successes.
2019 Program Results
Fifteen shipping companies slowed to protect blue whales and blue skies, reducing 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. See news release issued May 19, 2020. Although COVID-19 public health guidelines prevented an in-person awards event, the companies received trophies, plaques, and certificates according to their levels of achievement. Shown below are the whale tail statues for the four Sapphire companies – MSC, Hapag-Lloyd, Polynesia Line, and GALI – and the plaques for the seven Gold companies – COSCO, NYK Ro-Ro, Evergreen, Maersk, “K” Line, PIL, and CMA CGM.
Success of the VSR Program Throughout the Years
For a comparison on how the program has been growing throughout the years, please see the table below.
- May 2022 Presentation to the District Board on the 2021 VSR results.
- May 2021 Presentation to the District Board on the 2020 VSR results.
- Whale Safe website that shows vessel transit and whale data in the Southern California Region.
- NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary issues additional advisories when whales are present for ALL ships (300 gross registered tons or larger) to reduce speeds to 10 knots or less.
- 2017 study on ship strikes and whale mortality on the West Coast.
- In recognition of this program’s success, California State Senator Scott Wiener included VSR in California Senate Bill 69, which would have directed the California Air Resources Board to develop a similar voluntary VSR program in coordination with affected air districts and the national marine sanctuaries.
- International Maritime Organization (IMO) 2018 strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from ships.
- Identify the most heavily affected communities in California. CARB is in charge of identifying the disadvantaged communities, and the most recent list of communities can be found here.
- Community selection is based on data from a statewide screening tool (CalEnviroScreen), low-income areas, public outreach, and other data sets and tools. Communities can also nominate themselves.
- These communities may deploy additional community-level air monitoring or adopt community-specific emission reduction plans to improve the local air quality.
- For many regions, including Santa Barbara County, provide funding to replace dirtier diesel engines and equipment with cleaner ones.
- Implement new state emissions reporting system for criteria pollutants (such as ozone and particulate matter) and air toxics.
- Encourage installation of more pollution controls at industrial facilities.
- Increase penalties for polluters.
- Conduct community outreach in several regions in Santa Barbara County.
- Talk with affected communities to identify eligible grant project types.
- Share project types with District Board of Directors.
- Forward projects to CARB to allocate funding. The funding allocation from CARB is for diesel emissions reduction projects.
- Implement grant projects to improve air quality in affected communities.
- Work with CARB to efficiently implement a statewide emission inventory reporting system.
- Participate in a working group to develop a technology clearinghouse and to identify BARCT (Best Available Retrofit Control Technology) standards. These control technologies can greatly reduce emissions from engines and equipment. Revisions to District rules may also be necessary to meet the BARCT standards.
View infographic below for more on harmful effects of diesel emissions.
CARB developed the “Regulation for the Reporting of Criteria Air Pollutants and Toxic Air Contaminants” (or CTR) to implement statewide annual reporting of criteria air pollutant and toxic air contaminant emissions data from all facilities. Emissions inventory data is critical to understanding the sources of emissions that may contribute to adverse health risks or other impacts at the local, regional, and statewide level. The District maintains a thorough emission inventory, but additional modifications will be necessary to support the new statewide structure and to reliably compare the emission inventory between Air Districts.
AB 617 requires each air district to adopt an expedited rule development schedule for the implementation of best available retrofit control technology (BARCT) at each industrial source subject to the California GHG Cap-and-Trade program. On December 20, 2018, the Board of Directors adopted the AB 617 BARCT Rule Development Schedule. This rule development schedule allows the District to perform rule development proceedings to see if additional emission reductions can be feasibly attained at the six Industrial Sources within Santa Barbara County.
Funds are available from CARB for community-based organizations for technical assistance and projects that align with the goals of AB 617. Examples of what Community Air Grants are being used to fund includes, but is not limited to:
- Community engagement and outreach related to AB 617
- Hiring consultants and/or technical experts
- Travel and logistical support for hosting and/or attending meetings related to AB 617 (i.e., room rental, meeting facilitation, transportation)
- Support for community operated air monitoring
- Data collection and analysis, including community based participatory research projects
For more information regarding these grants, please see here.
Local Community Air Grants: Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians: Chumash Community Air Monitoring Network
This project will serve the Santa Ynez Chumash Reservation in Santa Barbara County. The Chumash Community Air Quality Monitoring Project will help improve air quality on the Reservation. This goal will be achieved through the establishment of a real-time monitoring network, strategic air quality sampling, community engagement and education, and tribal capacity building.
Air District: Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District
Amount Requested: $177,101.00
AB 1550 areas are those shaded in blue. For a more detailed map, please click here.
CalEnviroScreen (CES) is a screening methodology that can be used to help identify California communities that are disproportionately burdened by multiple sources of pollution and with population characteristics that make them more sensitive to pollution. The Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) periodically releases updates to the screening tool. The most recent version, CES 4.0, was released in October 2021, and the map of the results for Santa Barbara County is shown below. For more information on CES 4.0, please see here.
Available upon request.