Shipping Carriers Slow Down for Whales (and Cash)
“Suddenly beneath you swims the biggest creature there’s ever been. He sings a booming, lonely song into the empty blue.” My two-year-old son likes to say these words, quoting one of his children’s books, Under the Sea by Anna Milbourne and Cathy Shimmen as it describes the “gentle giant” that is the blue whale.
It has always seemed presumptuous to me that we say the blue whale is the largest creature that has ever been in the whole existence of earth, but if you ever saw a full-grown, 100-foot-long blue whale up close, it would be hard to imagine a bigger creature and even harder to imagine this creature being vulnerable to anything.
Yet, the giant blue whale does have vulnerabilities. One of the biggest dangers blue whales face comes in the form of giant cargo ships that sail across the oceans, carrying shippers’ imports and exports.
ThinkProgress reported in an article on Tuesday:
“One of the largest threats to whales right now is ship strikes,” said Sean Hastings, resource protection coordinator for the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. “The slower ships go, the better chance whales have of surviving strikes, and presumably they also have more time to get out of the way.”
The article is about a coordinated effort of six major international shipping carriers to slow down their ships along the coastline of Santa Barbara to protect endangered whales and reduce air pollution.
It seems like we haven’t been hearing as much about “going green” lately as we did two or three years back when it was such a hot button topic.
Despite “going green” not seeming to be as hot of a topic as it used to be, organizations are still making moves to protect the environment. A few green stories are in the news right now.
Over the weekend, Australia launched “Green Army” recruiting young people for environmental conservation and rehabilitation projects, Detroit Lions’ quarterback Matthew Stafford along with his backup QBs practiced in green jerseys yesterday made out of recycled plastic bottles to promote recycling, and here we have six international shipping carriers about to slow down ships from around 21 miles per hour to under 14 miles per hour in this trial program to reduce pollution and protect whales.
The motives of the shipping companies may not be as altruistic as it sounds.
“The participating companies — COSCO, Hapag Lloyd, K Line, Maersk Line, Matson, and United Arab Shipping Company — will receive $2,500 per slowed-down transit…” according to the ThinkProgress article.
It goes on to report:
“This is a pilot program meant to show that ships slow down when given the incentive,” Shiva Polefka, a researcher for the Center For American Progress’s Ocean Program told ThinkProgress. “Once the data is in hand, higher level authorities with more funding may get involved to broaden coverage. What makes this program noteworthy is that local environmental advocates and managers got international companies to come to the table and start implementing a simple solution that reduces air pollution and protects marine wildlife.”
The program is meant to show that ships slow down given incentive? We already know carriers will slow their ships given incentive. Look at the move to slow steaming in the international shipping industry. Carriers adopted this practice because of the incentive of saving money on fuel cost with the added benefit of lowered emissions. Carriers save money while getting the PR benefits of going green.
Will ships slow down if you pay the shipping companies to look good by joining a going green initiative? Duh.
“… there is currently enough funding for 16 transits. However the coalition received more than 30 ship transit requests to be included in the trial and is seeking additional funding to expand.
What carrier wouldn’t want to slow down their ships in this transit (or any other, for that matter) to receive more money? With many carriers having years with losses in the billions of dollars, they’re all looking for ways to increase profits. Would they slow down ships if the only incentive was environmental benefits? Now there’s a question.
I don’t actually think the program is about showing ships will slow down if given the incentive, but about the environmental benefits that will be seen by getting ships to slow down.