Ports of Auckland’s efforts to make the shipping industry safer for the local Bryde’s whale population have had encouraging results. Average ship speeds through the Hauraki Gulf have been lowered, and there has been a sharp reduction in the number of untimely whale deaths over the past two years.
A voluntary protocol for ships passing through the Hauraki Gulf was established in 2013. It asks ships to:
- travel as close to 10 knots as their schedule allows
- use the recommended approach route to Auckland’s port
- keep watch for whales and attempt to avoid any that are sighted
- report whale sightings to Ports of Auckland Harbour Control.
Based around scientific evidence showing that 10 knots is a safer travelling speed around whales, the protocol is flexible and allows ships to travel faster to keep to schedule if needed. This balance provides a positive environmental benefit at a reasonable economic cost and without disruption to vital supply-chain links.
Prior to the protocol’s introduction, ship speeds through the Hauraki Gulf averaged 14.2 knots, but over the past two months have averaged just 10.9 knots.
There has only been one confirmed whale death as a result of ship strike in the area over the past two years. Previously, there was an average of two whale deaths per year.
“Ports of Auckland aims to accommodate Auckland’s growing trade demands in a way that is sustainable,” said chief executive Tony Gibson.
“We are working together with scientists, shipping companies, conservation and environmental groups, and government agencies to take proactive action to improve conditions for whales.”
About Ports of Auckland
Ports of Auckland is wholly owned by council-controlled organisation Auckland Council Investments.
Its dividends are used for the benefit of Auckland ratepayers. In the last financial year the port declared a dividend of $41.7 million, which amounts to $88 per household – the equivalent of 3.75 per cent of the average Auckland residential rates bill.