Panama Canal Imposes Ship Speed Limit to Protect Whales

panama canal speed limit
Photo courtesy Panama Canal Authority (ACP)

The Panama Canal has implemented a 10 knot speed limit aimed at protecting whales, dolphins and other large marine mammals against ship strikes.

The speed limit will run from August 1 through November 30 to coincide with seasonal migration periods and in-line with International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) annual recommendations on speed and maritime transit aimed at protecting cetaceans.

Panama has monitored this requirement since December 1, 2014 when maritime traffic separation devices (TSS) were installed by both the Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean entry points to the Canal.

With the measures in place, ships should proceed at a speed of no more than 10 knots in specified areas.

“The Panama Canal is committed to sustainable development and the conservation of biodiversity, including the conservation of cetaceans by encouraging the maritime community to follow the recommendations and guidelines established by existing maritime traffic devices. These measures seek not only to protect cetaceans from collisions with vessels, but also to promote an orderly management of the ocean and its resources,” said Administrator Jorge L. Quijano.

The recommendations are included in the Maritime Traffic Organization publication issued by the IMO that aims to increase navigation safety in converging zones and areas of high-traffic density, or where the freedom of movement of vessels is limited due to space restrictions, obstacles to navigation, depth limitations, unfavorable weather conditions, exploitation of fishery resources or sensitive coastal and marine areas flagged as important for the protection of species and their habitats, the Panama Canal Authority said in a statement.

“The introduction of these devices has significantly reduced the likelihood of serious incidents and accidents involving humpback whales and other cetaceans, assuring maritime safety and control of vessels transiting our waters,” the statement said.