The Port of Vancouver has taken an innovative approach to making life easier for the area’s orcas, dolphins, and porpoises, and less costly for the ships that dock there. As of January 1, 2017, the port offers significant discounts to shippers who outfit their vessels with specific sound-reduction technologies that mitigate the noise that interferes with the ability of these marine mammals to hunt, navigate, and communicate with each other.
"What we're doing here is very much world leading in terms of a best practice," said Duncan Wilson, vice-president of corporate social responsibility for the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority.
According to the port’s new guidelines, participating ships can be classified as either meeting a bronze- or gold-standard, based on their use of various noise-reduction technologies. Vessels that earn a bronze rating get a 23-percent discount on their harbor dues. Gold-rated vessels save a whopping 47 percent.
For mid-sized ships, that can mean savings of as much as $3,000 to $4,000 per visit. And because dues are based on vessel size, large-container or cruise ships can save even more.
The port’s rationale for quieter ships
Since 2005, the region’s emblematic killer whales have been on the endangered species list. The causes include the area’s decline of chinook salmon (high on an orca’s list of favorite foods), not to mention the rise in environmental pollutants. Add to this the impact of ship noise on the Lifestyles of the Sleek and Torpedo-Shaped, and the need to take action to help save killer whales and their kin became increasingly apparent.
Using data collected from underwater microphones, researchers determined that ships make high-pitched noises, inaudible to most humans, that hit the sensitive hearing range of orcas, who use sonar to get around, stay together, and zero in on their prey.
Incentive program linked to research
The incentive program is the direct result of the port’s ECHO (Enhancing Cetacean Habitat and Observation) program. Started in 2014, the program set out to examine the effect of port traffic on cetaceans – the group of blow-hole breathing marine mammals that includes killer whales. And when the study determined that shipping noise played a disorienting role in the lives of orcas and the like, the Port of Vancouver decided to offer positive reinforcement—substantial discounts—to those shippers who will get on board with its noise mitigation program.
"Those [noise reduction] technologies right now are probably mostly accessible to new large vessels, but there's no reason why they couldn't be employed by smaller vessels—pleasure craft, ferries and others," said Wilson."It's also recognition that they're doing something that's good for the environment and is reducing the impact on a critical species."
PortVision has been used to support green shipping initiaties to reduce vessel emissions in ports here on the west coast. If your business is interested in using AIS vessel data to help save the environment, give us a call at 1-713-337-3737.