The 2020 program began on May 15 and concluded on November 15, 2020. The results are being compiled and we look forward to presenting them in early 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.
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.
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.
- June 2020 Presentation to the District Board on the 2019 VSR results.
- 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.
- NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary issues additional advisories when whales are present for ALL ships (300 gross registered tons or larger) to voluntarily reduce speeds to 10 knots or less.
- 2017 study on ship strikes and whale mortality on the West Coast.
- Whale Safe website that shows vessel transit and whale data in the Southern California Region.
- International Maritime Organization initial strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from ships adopted April 13, 2018.