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Protecting Blue Whales and Blue Skies Programme Underway for 2024


A Partnership for Cleaner Air, Safer Whales, and a Quieter Ocean

Protecting Blue Whales and Blue Skies is a voluntary Vessel Speed Reduction (VSR) Program along the coast of California. By creating seasonal and predictable slow speed zones, this program helps companies protect endangered whales, reduce fuel use and regional greenhouse gas emissions, and improve air quality. The Protecting Blue Whales and Blue Skies team independently verifies cooperation rates, quantifies the benefits of participation, and provides recognition of program participants to encourage the adoption of sustainable shipping practices across the globe.

In April 2024, the programme announced that it would be implementing a voluntary Vessel Speed Reduction (VSR) incentive from May to December 2024 – building on the successes of the 2023 season.

The incentive program will be in operation from May 1 – December 31 in the Monterey and San Francisco region and May 1 – December 15 in the southern California region to reduce air pollution, fatal ship strikes on whales, and underwater noise. Positive press and public relations incentives will be awarded to participating vessel operators based on percent of distance traveled by all of their vessels through the VSR Zones at 10 knots or less, termed “percent of cooperation,” during the identified time period.

Consistent with the 2023 Program, program participants will receive recognition for their participation through a positive public relations campaign to draw public awareness to the VSR program and your company’s participation. Level of recognition will be scaled according to each company’s level of participation.

Each vessel transiting the VSR Zones will have their speed verified via analysis of Automatic Identification System (AIS) data. Participation is voluntary and does not commit shipping industry participants beyond the program period. If an enrolled company is unable to meet the minimum program criteria, there is no penalty, but public relations and positive press incentives will not be awarded.

While the scope of the program is limited to Southern California region and the San Francisco and Monterey Bay regions, air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and the threat of ship strikes on whales extends beyond these zone areas. Every effort should be made by participating vessels to not increase speed while outside the VSR Zones to “make up time,” which negates the positive benefits of your participation.

This VSR incentive program complements existing seasonal whale advisories and voluntary slow speed

requests in effect in the Southern California region and San Francisco and Monterey Bay regions. The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the United States Coast Guard (USCG), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) strongly recommend that all vessels 300 gross tons or larger reduce speeds to 10 knots or less in these vessel slow speed zones.

More information on the incentive and how to role in 2024 can be found here

The 2023 season marked the highest enrollment and cooperation rate in the program’s history. Collectively, participating fleets travelled approximately 375,000 nautical miles at 10 knots or less within the VSR zones and achieved an overall cooperation rate of 81%, up from 78% in the 2022 season.

Throughout the season, the following were achieved:

  • 33 global shipping companies participated
  • Overall cooperation rate: 81%
  • Total VSR distance: 375,437 nautical miles
  • Reduced NOx emissions: 1,250 tons
  • Reduced regional GHG emissions: 45,000 metric tons
  • Reduced risk of fatal ship strikes to endangered whales: 58%
  • Reduced underwater noise: 5.4 decibels per transit
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