In the Indian Ocean, south of the coast of Sri Lanka, an Important Marine Mammal Area (IMMA) has been identified by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature). Many blue whales are observed there throughout the year. Known as the largest animal living on our planet, the Blue Whale is also classified by the IUCN as “Endangered”.
Sensitive to the pressures of maritime activities, the whales in Sri Lanka waters are highly threatened by the intensity of maritime traffic. The passage of numerous commercial ships, combined with the high concentration of whales in this area, increases the risk of collisions between ships and whales.
The separation of maritime traffic : the solution to slow down the increase of the risk of collisions ?
The scientific community, along with major shipping organizations, have agreed to submit a proposal for the implementation of a traffic separation scheme in order to have an international shipping corridor recognized 15 nautical miles to the south.
Based on these recommendations, the MSC Group took the initiative, in 2022, to modify the route of its ships to avoid this particularly risky area.
Stefania Lallai, Vice President Sustainability at MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company, commented:
“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. MSC is proud to rank at or near the top of whale safety shipping rankings. However, we are not at all complacent. We believe that rising awareness of these issues and encouraging collaboration between industry, scientific bodies, civil society and governments is essential as we strive collectively to do more to minimize the risk of ship strikes.”Stefania Lallai
This decision is great news for the blue whales that frequent these waters. By deviating their route by only 15 nautical miles, the risk of collision is reduced by 95%.
What about the implementation of the system on an international scale?
The initiative taken by MSC Group could become the trigger for the implementation of an international traffic separation scheme, thus allowing the blue whale population to be protected from the risk of collision with a ship.