For years, the massive blue whales have been on a deadly collision course with large ships in one of the busiest shipping lanes off the Sri Lankan coast in the Northern Indian Ocean.

The world’s largest container carrier Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) has now taken the lead by re-routing its ships to keep away from the endangered mammal.

It has encouraged other shipping lines to take a more southerly route south of the official Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS) shipping lane. Another big shipping line, Maersk , seems to be open to the idea.

The massive blue whales are non-migratory and resident in these waters year-round, where nearly 200 ships transit through every day and threaten their survival.

Changing course

MSC has adopted a new course that is approximately 15 nautical miles to the south of the current TSS for commercial shipping. Incidentally, in January MSC was the first major shipping line to re-route its ships on the west coast of Greece to reduce the risk of collision with endangered sperm whales in the Mediterranean.

There have been precedents of moving shipping lanes. In 2007 officials in the US worked to shift a lane off the coast of Massachusetts to keep away ships from the area’s fragile baleen and North Atlantic right whales. The move was credited with reducing the risk of ships striking the whales by 81 per cent.

Similarly, the coast of California ocean highway was a key feeding ground for whales. Over 100 whales died between 1988 and 2012. The shipping lane moving one nautical mile north helped to reduce the number of collisions between ships and whales, say various reports.

A global research confirmed that if shipping were to transit a mere 15 nautical miles south (offshore) of the current routes, then the risk of ship strikes to blue whales would be reduced by a staggering 95 per cent.

Stefania Lallai, Vice-President-Sustainability, at MSC, said, “We believe that the commercial shipping sector has an important role to play in protecting cetaceans, specifically in helping to reduce the risk of ship collisions with whales.”

When BusinessLine reached out to Maersk , its spokesperson said, “We follow all mandatory speed reduction schemes at sea and avoid restricted zones to reduce risk of whale strikes and disturbing whales breeding, and we have in addition adopted voluntary restriction zones for whale protection, most recently adding two zones in the Mediterranean Sea.”

social-fb COMMENT NOW