MSC Cruises Works to Reduce Chance of Ships Hitting Whales

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MSC Cruises announced it is taking proactive steps to lower the risk of its ships colliding with marine life, including whales, dolphins and porpoises. The cruise line, which currently operates 21 vessels worldwide, partnered with a marine conservation charity that offers specialized training to deck officers.

MSc Cruises Implements Strike Mitigation Plan

MSC Cruises is working with ORCA, the UK-based marine conservation group, to implement a ship strike mitigation plan designed to reduce the chances of ship collisions with marine mammals.

The cruise line revealed on March 2 that bridge officers aboard the 171,598 gross ton MSC Bellissima will be the first to undergo an online training program.

MSC Bellissima was selected as the pilot vessel for the educational program because she regularly navigates the Pelagos Sanctuary for Mediterranean Marine Mammals, a large wildlife reserve in the Ligurian Sea that reaches from the Italian Riviera to Monaco. The ship sails Mediterranean cruises from her home port of Genoa.

MSC Bellissima Cruise Ship
Photo Credit: A.Casinos / Shutterstock

MSC Cruises Vice President of Environmental Operations and Compliance Captain Minas Myrtidis said, ”By working together with ORCA we are able to play an important role in protecting the seas for future generations. We are committed to supporting the health of our oceans and believe partnering with experts to introduce bespoke training and education is a positive step forward.”

The training is meant to educate officers stationed on the ship’s bridge about marine mammals and how to avoid ship strikes. Following the training of MSC Bellissimo’s officers, the course will be launched across the entire MSC fleet, including on the cruise line’s latest newbuild, MSC Euribia, which will debut in June and sail in Northern Europe.

Whale Safety

Cruise lines in recent years have been dealing with government protections aimed at safeguarding whales, particularly right whales, a species that was added to the endangered list in 1970.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), vessel strikes and fishing gear entanglement are the two primary causes of right whale deaths and serious injury. There are only approximately 350 right whales alive today.

Disney Cruise Ship Sailing Near Orca Whales
Photo Credit: Manamana / Shutterstock

A proposed NOAA rule change for right whale safety announced last August alarmed officials at Port Canaveral, which is the world’s busiest cruise port. The rule change reduces the speed limit to 10 knots for cruise ships and other large vessels within five miles of the coast from November to April — prime cruise season for ships operating between Florida ports and the Caribbean.

Other major cruise destinations also have been affected by marine mammal protections, such as Alaska. A Canadian government order enacted in June 2022 and seeking to protect killer whales in the waters of southern British Columbia prompted Princess Cruises to drop planned port calls at Victoria and avoid the area by replacing the destination with Prince Rupert during the ship’s 2023 Alaska season.

MSC Cruises joins other cruise lines in partnering with the ORCA conservation group. Adventure cruise line Hurtigruten Expeditions, for example, has the group’s ocean conservationists onboard its ships as part of the line’s expert expedition teams.

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