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Algoma joins St. Lawrence/East Coast whale conservation efforts

2018-07-05

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).

Algoma Central Corporation, the largest fleet of dry and liquid bulk carriers on the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Waterway, is adding the crews from 27 of its vessels to an expanding network of whale watchers. For the first time, the crews on Algoma's self-unloaders, bulkers, tankers and cement carriers will collect data about the whales they see on their journeys this summer.

"Algoma is committed to providing sustainable and environmentally responsible marine transportation," said Gregg Ruhl, Algoma's Chief Operating Officer. "Taking part in this conservation initiative and bringing the power of our fleet to gather more data and better understand the whereabouts of marine mammals will support research that can help minimize our environmental impact."

The data collection being led by the Marine Mammal Observation Network (MMON) and supported by Green Marine, now encompasses more than 50 vessels, along with observations made from shorelines and ferries in Matane, Godbout, Baie-Comeau, Rivière-du-Loup, Trois Pistoles and Les Escoumins and through an evolving collaboration with marine pilots.

Special training was provided to Algoma vessel Captains earlier this year and information materials provided to crews to raise awareness about the different marine mammals that could be encountered on their journeys and to acquire more knowledge about these animals. Many of Algoma's vessels operate in the Saint Lawrence Estuary, where they may come across beluga, harbour porpoise, minke, blue, fin, and humpback whales.

Several vessels also navigate in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and on the Canadian and U.S. East Coast, where they could also come across dolphins, pilot whales, and North Atlantic right whales.

 

Based in Rivière-du-Loup, Québec, MMON initiated the maritime industry's participation in the data collection about marine mammals in 2015 with Groupe Desgagnés and Canada Steamship Lines, a division of the CSL Group. Green Marine subsequently became a part of the project financed by the Government of Canada through its Habitat Stewardship for Species at Risk program to develop the required training materials and facilitate networking with ship owners. The collected data is disseminated publicly through the St. Lawrence Global Observatory website at www.slgo.ca/en/

"The maritime industry's commitment to this project has extremely positive implications for whale conservation," affirmed Esther Blier, MMON's executive director. "In addition to collecting essential information, the initiative helps to educate crews about the presence of endangered whales within their navigational realm, and to take actions during these encounters to limit collisions, as well as report dead, entangled or injured whales. The collaboration also increases multifold the opportunities to sensitize crews to respect voluntary measures that benefit whales, such as the voluntary speed reduction established in the St. Lawrence Estuary."

"Algoma's participation almost doubles the number of vessels taking part in the whale watching initiative," noted Véronique Nolet, Green Marine's program manager responsible for training crews to identify whales and report sightings. "The additional observations by Algoma's crews will lead to more reliable data for both the scientific community and the maritime industry operating within these waters." ( Photo R. Beaupré)

 
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