Article - November 23, 2023

How StormGeo Assists Vessels and Vessel Operators in Navigating Whale- Populated Areas

Emily Parker

Emily Parker

Senior Route Analyst

Whale tail

StormGeo is committed to supporting the environment and safety of whale populations around the world. Places where whales feed, breed, and migrate often coincide with busy ports or shipping lanes. In recent years, efforts have grown to protect whales by reducing unintentional whale strikes and ocean noise, typically through regional avoidance, the introduction of shipping lanes, and speed reductions set by government agencies. StormGeo supports shipping companies and their vessels’ compliance with speed reductions in areas with high populations of whales, whereby Route Analysts provide appropriate speed guidance and weather forecasts for the ships navigating these waters.

Speed Reductions for Whale Safety

Differing speed allocations across the eastern Pacific

For example, vessels sailing into southern California ports such as Long Beach must reduce to 10 knots before entering the Santa Barbara Channel if they voluntarily comply with local regulations. For vessels that are meeting a certain ETA into port, StormGeo provides the most economical speed allocations for both outside and inside the Emissions Control Area (ECA), a boundary extending 200 nautical miles from certain countries in which vessels are required to use lower sulfur fuel. The above animation shows the vessel slowing down once entering the ECA, designated in light blue, and again once crossing the Santa Barbara Channel. StormGeo provides guidance like the above in multiple regions worldwide.

Whale breaching

Another example is the critically endangered North Atlantic Right whale found along the eastern coast of the United States and Canada. Yearly mandatory and voluntary speed restrictions are implemented in the Gulf of St. Lawrence by Transport Canada once the waters are free of ice.

Speed restrictions are determined based on the vessel’s size and where the vessel is in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, such as in the static or dynamic shipping zones. For the dynamic shipping zones, temporary speed restrictions are put in effect when whales are detected and then are deactivated once whales are not sighted for a period of time. For 2023, speed restrictions are valid from April 19th through November 15th.  

In all cases described above, should a vessel need to deviate from the requested speed reductions, vessels may do so for safety reasons, such as during times of inclement weather.   

Implementing speed reductions in areas where whales are known to frequent is a crucial step toward protecting marine life. While it may require some adjustment on the part of vessels and their operators, the benefits to the environment as a whole are immeasurable. Environmental stewardship is important to StormGeo, and we are dedicated to supporting sustainability in a multitude of ways.

For vessels who are opting in on voluntary speed reductions in or avoidance of whale areas, Route Analysts are prepared to provide the vessel with the appropriate speeds and route guidance.