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Hapag-Lloyd recognized for whale safety practices

Shipper slows vessel speed in areas of high risk to avoid whale strikes

(Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

Global shipping company Hapag-Lloyd received a whale-safe award from Friend of the Sea, a global marine conservation project that is part of a larger environmental group, World Sustainability Organization.

Friend of the Sea rated the largest 18 shipping companies and cruise lines based on how safe their practices are for whales. In a Tuesday release, it identified Hapag-Lloyd as “the international shipping company most committed to minimizing the risk of whale ship strikes.”

Many whales are killed or injured by collisions with ocean vessels every year. Several of the busiest shipping lanes in the world go through major feeding and breeding zones for whales, which increases the risk of collisions, according to a Friend of the Sea report.

“Increases in the size and number of ships in the trading fleets of the world increase the potential for lethal ship strikes and displacement dramatically,” Karen Wristen, executive director of environmental organization Living Oceans Society, told FreightWaves in a previous interview.

Read: How to fight the ‘silent massacre’ of whale-ship collisions

A Friend of the Sea study found that Hapag-Lloyd reduces vessel speeds in all areas of potential risk for whale-ship collisions. But the shipper could score higher if it put a full-time observation system in place. 

“We are truly honored to have been granted the Whale-Safe Award,” Capt. Wolfram Guntermann, director of regulatory affairs at Hapag-Lloyd, said in the release. “Hapag-Lloyd is aware of the impact that shipping has on whales and endangered species. To protect them, we reduce our vessels’ speed in many high-risk regions, and we strictly follow the established areas to be avoided, where many whales are found.”

The companies evaluated by Friend of the Sea in the order of their ranking for whale safety are Hapag-Lloyd, MSC, Evergreen, HMM, Seatrade, CMA CGM, ZIM, Yang Ming, COSCO, Matson, ONE, A.P. Moller – Maersk, IRISL, KMTC, PIL, RCL, SITC and Wan Hal Lines.

Whale-safe certification requirements

To be certified as whale-safe by Friend of the Sea, a shipping company must:

  • Use full-time observations and technology such as thermal imaging cameras to detect nearby whales.
  • Share real-time whale-sighting data with nearby vessels and Friend of the Sea via an online platform.
  • Follow established procedures after sighting whales nearby, such as changing route or slowing ship speed.
  • Comply with voluntary and regulatory speed reductions and collision-mitigation guidelines in high-risk areas.
  • Provide lookouts with proper whale-sighting equipment and training and assign adequate lookouts in areas known for high concentrations of marine mammals.
  • Use ducted or hidden propellers to avoid possible whale injuries.

In addition to these whale-centered compliance measures, companies must comply with International Maritime Organization regulations, engage in collaboration and R&D for environmental technologies and properly manage their water and waste.

“For many populations of marine giants, the consequences of interactions with shipping vessels remain largely unknown. This knowledge gap exists for several reasons: difficulties in studying species because of their behavior, rarity or remoteness; changes in species movement over time, affecting the ability to predict interactions; or underreporting or lack of reporting of interaction events,” a 2018 study at Macquarie University in Australia said.

Only 10% of whales that die from ship strikes wash ashore, according to Friend of the Sea, which means that up to 90% of whale deaths from ship impacts go unnoticed. 

Click here for more FreightWaves articles by Alyssa Sporrer.

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Alyssa Sporrer

Alyssa is a staff writer at FreightWaves, covering sustainability news in the freight and supply chain industry, from low-carbon fuels to social sustainability, emissions & more. She graduated from Iowa State University with a double major in Marketing and Environmental Studies. She is passionate about all things environmental and enjoys outdoor activities such as skiing, ultimate frisbee, hiking, and soccer.