Multipurpose ship operator AAL’s participation in a Vancouver Fraser Port Authority study on the impact of ship noise on the environment has come to a close.
The study, which ran from Aug. 7 to Oct. 6, looked at the relationship between slower vessel speeds, underwater noise levels and the effects on southern resident killer whales.
During the voluntary study, which took place in Haro Strait, located between Vancouver Island’s Saanich Peninsula and San Juan Island, vessels were asked to navigate over underwater listening stations or hydrophones at 11 knots, slower than typical deep-sea vessel operating speeds.
The hydrophones tracked ambient and vessel underwater noise, as well as the presence of whales, with automated vessel tracking used to monitor vessel speed during the research.
Existing scientific evidence suggests that underwater noise from vessels can interfere with killer whale echolocation clicks, calls and whistles, hindering their ability to hunt, navigate and communicate. Existing research also indicates that vessels operating at lower speeds typically create less underwater noise.
“Our endorsement of the project came because AAL has a high regard for the environment and respect for the communities in which we operate,” said Tanya Britton, operations manager for Liner Services at AAL Shipping. “It is important to engage and support programs that show this type of initiative.”
ECHO Program Involvement
The Haro Strait study, which saw participation from 52 marine shipping industry organizations and Washington State Ferries, was planned and coordinated through the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority-led Enhancing Cetacean Habitat and Observation (ECHO) Program and through a committee with representatives from BC Ferries, Hapag-Lloyd and the Chamber of Shipping of British Columbia.
AAL took part in the discussion group and industry consultation leading up to the study period.
“The ECHO trial has had 60 percent participation, which is considered to be an overwhelming success with industry participation,” Britton said of the research, noting that initial indications regarding the study were positive.
Acoustic detections and observational data logged during the study will be further analyzed in the coming months and reported in early 2018.
On top of participating in the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority study, AAL is a member of a group supporting the responsible use of anchorages in the Southern Gulf Islands of British Columbia in Canada.
Britton, as an invited industry member, is also part of the British Columbia Maritime Employers Association’s “Supply and Demand” working group, which aims to address immediate and long-term labor shortage in the port as well as the long-term requirements to keep up with growth in cargo volumes.
Photo: AAL’s Tanya Britton believes it is important to engage and support programs such as this. Credit: AAL