HAPAG-Lloyd has received the Whale-Safe Award 2022 in recognition of its commitment to reducing the risk of whale ship strikes.

The award was the first of its kind presented by conservation NGO Friend of the Sea as part of its Whale-Safe campaign, which aims to reduce lethal ship strikes from major shipping lines.  

Friend of the Sea assessed the top 20 shipping and cruise line operators globally to determine levels of engagement and efforts to avoid whale-ship collisions.

The NGO said Hapag-Lloyd earned the highest score for efforts relating to the avoidance of arctic shipping routes and participation in environmental programs.  

The company was also commended for its collaboration with the World Shipping Council on the movement of one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes off the southern coast of Sri Lanka which currently intersects with areas populated by blue whales.

“We are truly honoured to have been granted the Whale-Safe Award,” Hapag-Lloyd director regulatory affairs Captain Wolfram Guntermann said.

“Hapag-Lloyd is aware of the impact that shipping has on whales and endangered species. To protect them, we reduce our vessels’ speed in many high-risk regions, and we strictly follow the established areas to be avoided, where many whales are found,” he said.

Hapag-Lloyd said in a statement that many of the world’s busiest shipping lanes directly overlap with areas where whales swim, feed, and breed.

The company said separating shipping lanes from these areas is the best solution, though acknowledged the difficulty of implementing it.  

It said the next best measure is to reduce the speed of ships in these areas so whales have a better chance of avoiding collisions, however this approach is not ideal as collisions with sleeping whales can still occur.

“Friend of the Sea strives to amplify the voices of shipping operators who outspokenly recognise the sea, not merely as a convenient venture, but as a resource of intrinsic value that we must respect and protect,” Friend of the Sea founder and director Paolo Bray said.

“Hapag-Lloyds’ first prize in Friend of the Sea’s ranking comes with little surprise given its comprehensive internal sustainability policies,” the NGO said in a statement.

“By issuing an unparalleled level of transparency and acknowledgement of the environmental impacts of shipping, Hapag-Lloyd [has] showcased its holistic approach by accompanying its successful business practise with formidable environmental performance, setting a precedent in the industry with its sustainable maritime stewardship.”

Shipping companies following closely behind Hapag-Lloyd in the Whale-Safe ranking include MSC, Evergreen, HMM, Seatrade, and CMA CGM.

Companies demonstrating the least engagement in the protection of whales include IRISL, KMTC, PIL, SITC, and Wan Hai Lines.