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Ottawa limits vessel speeds in Gulf of St. Lawrence

2017-08-23

McKeil Marine's Evans Spirit  won the International Bulk Journal's 2016 Ship of the Year Award during the IBJ's Salute to Excellence in the Maritime Bulk Industry gala awards ceremony in London, UK on November 21.
"It's a fantastic way to closeout our 60th anniversary year: having a vessel named after our founder, Evans McKeil, win this prestigious international award," said Steve Fletcher, President and CEO of McKeil Marine.
Acquired by McKeil in 2015, the Evans Spirit is a cargo ship with the shallow draught characters of a tug and barge; however, compared to a tug-and-barge unit, she can transport approximately 40 per cent more cargo about 50 per cent faster on a very similar amount of fuel.  She is in service throughout the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River.
Evans Spirit was shortlisted for 2016 Ship of the Year competing with three other vessels: CS Bright, Mitsui OSK Lines, Japan;  Damen Shipyards, Netherlands; and MN Baroque, Swiss Marine, Switzerland. The award is presented to the owner, operator or builder of an outstanding individual bulk ship. Judged on operational efficiency, design innovation, safety and environmental protection, the Evans Spirit was selected as winner. (Photo Paul Beesley).

To address the recent sudden increase of right whale deaths in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Canada's federal government has ordered vessels of 20 metres or more in length to reduce their speeds to a maximum of 10 knots while sailing through these waters. It applies notably to the ocean container and bulk vessels active in the St. Lawrence trades. Faster vessels attain average speeds of up to 25 knots.

Ten of the endangered species have died since June. Preliminary findings suggest some of the mammals have died from blunt trauma caused by ship collisions or from entanglements in fishing gear. Latest reports indicate there are still 500 North Atlantic right whales still alive, including around 80-100 presently in the Gulf. The speed limits remain in place until the whales have migrated from the areas of the Gulf that have caused the most concern.

Transport Minister Marc Garneau and Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc were in Pointe-du-Chene, New Brinswick on August 11 to announce temporary measures aimed at curbing further whale deaths. The measures are enforced by the Canadian Coast Guard and Transport Canada, and non-compliance is subject to fines of up to $25,000. The area involved is the western Gulf of St. Lawrence from the Quebec North Shore to just north of Prince Edward Island.

"I think that Canadians and the shipping industry and the fishing industry recognize that this is something most unusual and we needs to take measures," Mr. Garneau said.

 

Mr. LeBlanc said that further measures could include temporary fishery closures and shipping-lane adjustments. The Fisheries Department had previously taken such steps as shortening the snow-crab season and asking fishermen in the Gulf to report whale sightings.

"These recent whale deaths are deeply troubling to our members," commented Bruce Burrows, President of the Chamber of Marine Commerce, adding that it was critical for industry and government to continue to work closely together "to develop solutions based on strong science that both protect marine wildlife and minimize economic impacts."

The Ottawa-based CMC estimates the speed restrictions could result in delays of up to seven hours for some vessel voyages. This has a direct impact on carrier operating costs.

On August 19, Oceanex Inc., which operates a regular service between St. John's, Newfoundland, and Montreal, announced a "temporary marine protection surcharge" for  cargo shippers to offset higher fuel and labour costs. (Photo Louis Rhéaume).

 
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