THE Panama Canal authority has initiated seasonal traffic lanes and speed limits, which it hopes will considerably decrease the risk of vessels striking migrating whales and other large aquatic mammals.

Starting August 1, 2022, through November 30, 2022, the Panama Canal called on vessels to follow annual speed and navigational measures to prevent collisions with whales, dolphins, and other large aquatic mammals beginning their seasonal migration nearby the waterway.

Vessels sailing to and from the Canal during this period have been asked to stay within designated navigation areas known as Traffic Separation Schemes (TSS), which minimise areas of overlap between vessels and migrating marine life.

The annual measures set by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) also require that vessels entering or exiting the Canal via the Pacific Ocean keep their speed at or below 10 knots, a practice known as Vessel Speed Reduction (VSR).

“As facilitators of global maritime trade, it is our responsibility to minimise the environmental impacts of our operations,” said Panama Canal Administrator Ricaurte Vasquez Morales.

“These measures represent some of the simple, yet critical ways the Panama Canal and shipping lines must work together to ensure a more sustainable future for world commerce.”

Since the TSS measures were introduced in 2014, the likelihood of serious incidents has decreased considerably for vessels and marine life, including for humpback whales, which migrate from northern and southern latitudes during their winter season to Panama’s warm waters to give birth and to raise their calves.

“The annual TSS programme shows how making a few small changes can lead to outsized benefits when it comes to sustainability,” said Maxim Rebolledo, Environmental Specialist at the Panama Canal. “We appreciate our customers for their partnership on this issue and the Panama Canal’s broader efforts to safeguard the environment.”

Source: The Shipping Tribune