Protecting Blue Whales and Blue Skies
Shipping 2019 Featured-1

The 2021 program will begin on May 15 and it will last until November 15, 2021. The application materials to sign-up and participate in the program will be available shortly.

The results from the 2020 program are being compiled and we look forward to presenting them in May 2021.

Please note that although the incentive VSR program concluded, endangered whales are still present along the California coast and the NOAA and U.S. Coast Guard voluntary Vessel Speed Reduction request remains in effect in the southern California region through December 15, 2020. 

For additional information, see the 2019 Fact Sheet or the webpage on Previous Vessel Speed Reduction (VSR) Programs.


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 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

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.

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.

Additional Information