Ship strike in Panama Canal drops

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Ship strike in Panama Canal drops

A traffic separation scheme and 10 knot speed restriction has seen a huge drop in the number of strikes since December 2014, showing positive signs for the future.

A new report shows that mitigation measures put in place in the Panama Canal may have resulted in a 92% drop in the potential of ship strike, which is promising news for researchers and organisations work to prevent this issue.

A reported in Hakai Magazine, a new traffic separation scheme was put in place in December 2014 alongside a mandatory speed restriction of 10 knots. This scheme limited the dozens of ships using the canal every day to sailing on the outer edges of the canal with the aim of preventing collisions.

In positive news, the new regulations (implemented by the International Maritime Organisation) seem to have had an impact, with research suggesting the risk of collision has dropped by as much as 92%, preventing a significant risk to large whales in heavy shipping lanes.

Héctor Guzmán, a marine biologist from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, worked with the Panana Canal Authority and other key organisations to implement the measures and early indications are that they could play a positive role in protecting humpback whales and other large marine mammals in the region.
Most positively, Guzmán's research has shown that compliance so far has been 100%, using satellite tracking to monitor ships to ensure they abide by the measures.

ORCA have been working to understand the issue of ship strike in more detail in the Bay of Biscay, with our pilot study in 2017 showing positive results. We are working on an expanded programme in 2018 to try and find solutions to this critical threat to fin whale populations in this busy shipping area.