MSC re-routes its ships to save endangered Mediterranean whales

Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), the Swiss-Italian shipping company that is now the world's largest ocean carrier, has opted to reroute its ships on the west coast of Greece in order to lessen the chance of collision with endangered sperm whales in the Mediterranean.

It is the first major shipping line to re-route its ships in order to save the endangered species of whales. According to the firm, the decision was made after discussions with four major environmental non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and MSC is now the first major shipping line to re-route all of its container boats in this area to protect the important habitat for the whale subpopulation.

According to MSC, it was necessary to take a critical action like this in order to save and protect the remaining 200 to 300 of the population. The Hellenic Trench, to the west and south of the Peloponnese and southwest of Crete, has been identified as critical habitat for the eastern Mediterranean sperm whale population by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), OceanCare, and WWF Greece in collaboration with the Pelagos Cetacean Research Institute.

As previously stated, deep-diving whales may be seen in the area all year and congregate around the 1000-meter depth contour — right in the path of busy shipping routes. "As a worldwide leader in container shipping and logistics, we have a duty to guarantee that our shipping operations have a positive impact, reflecting our longtime commitment to conserving and safeguarding the ocean and marine animals," said MSC Vice President of Sustainability, Stefania Lallai.

He also added that collaboration with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) is essential for understanding and acting to conserve endangered sperm whales around the Greek coast.

Immediate action needs to be taken now

The measure is expected to make a significant impact on the survival of these at-risk whales because the above-mentioned area is currently the company's route. The whales discovered dead on the beach with propeller marks and slashes are only the tip of the iceberg. Up to 20 times more people die offshore and their deaths go unrecorded.

"We're also observing fewer whales in our yearly research surveys than in past years, which is a major worry," says Alexandros Frantzis, scientific director of the Pelagos Cetacean Research Institute. We are concerned that if prompt action is not taken, deaths from ship hits may lead this already small species to become extinct very soon.

The NGO group asked other shipping firms to follow suit, since ship re-routing is now necessary to lower the danger of ship strikes to sperm whales by about 75%. MSC is also involved in global efforts to protect the ocean environment and life below water, including the protection of endangered species such as right whales (off the east coast of the United States) and blue, humpback, and fin whales (off the west coast of the United States), as well as southern resident killer whales (Canada).

In 2020 - for the third year in a row - MSC received the highest (Sapphire) Award for ‘Protecting Blue Whales and Blue Skies’ vessel speed reduction incentive program (a joint effort by Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District, Ventura County Air Pollution Control District and Bay Area Air Quality Management District partnering with the US NOAA’s Channel Islands, Cordell Bank and Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuaries, the California Marine Sanctuary Foundation and the Volgenau Foundation).

MSC continues to participate in the annual 'Haro Strait and Boundary Pass voluntary vessel slowdown' to decrease underwater noise and aid in the recovery of endangered southern resident killer whales, as it has done in previous years.