© Brutus Ostling / WWF-Canon

Open letter to the IMO on speed reduction

23 October 2018

Governance Pan-Arctic Narwhal Bowhead whale Beluga Wildlife Shipping Ocean

To: Mr Hideaki Saito, Chair, Marine Environment Protection Committee, International Maritime Organization

We the undersigned organizations wish to express our support for the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) in considering speed measures for shipping at its Marine Environment Policy Committee meeting (MEPC 73) starting October 22 in London.

Speed controls on ships, determined and implemented by the IMO, would have multiple benefits.

On climate change, managing the speed of ships, as is done in other transport sectors, would be a useful policy lever in cutting greenhouse gas emissions, with associated benefits for marine life. Air pollution, whether of SOx, NOx, particulate matter, or black carbon, could similarly be reduced.

For whales and dolphins, slower ship speeds could reduce underwater noise pollution, and reduce incidents of whale strikes.

For these reasons we urge IMO delegates to give the speed proposal due consideration, and decide on a timeline for an impact study before a decision on adoption. Speed could be a valuable tool in the IMO's toolbox, for the climate, human health, and marine life.


  • Whale and Dolphin Conservation
  • Environmental Investigation Agency
  • WWF
  • Seas at Risk
  • Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life
  • Quercus
  • Pacific Environment
  • Surfrider Foundation Europe
  • Marine Conservation Society
  • Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition