2023 Swiftsure Bank voluntary ship slowdown

Working together to create quieter and safer waters for the whales

Swiftsure Bank is a known foraging area within the critical habitat of southern resident killer whales, which are listed as endangered in both Canada and the United States. Both countries’ governments have identified underwater noise generate from ships as one of the key threats to killer whales due to its interference with their ability to hunt, navigate and communicate via echolocation.

Not in effect

The voluntary ship slowdown concluded on October 31, 2023.

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To reduce the impacts of commercial shipping on at-risk whales in this key foraging area, the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority-led Enhancing Cetacean Habitat and Observation (ECHO) Program is coordinating a voluntary ship slowdown at Swiftsure Bank in collaboration with government agencies, Indigenous communities, the marine transportation industry, and environmental groups. During the voluntary slowdown, vessels transiting the inbound and outbound shipping lanes at Swiftsure Bank are encouraged to slow down when safe to do so.   

The Swiftsure Bank voluntary ship slowdown is one of three underwater noise reduction initiatives coordinated by the ECHO Program. Since 2017, these initiatives have encouraged thousands of ship operators to slow down or stay distanced in southern resident killer whale critical habitat, helping to reduce underwater sound intensity by up to 55% in key foraging areas.  

About the 2023 voluntary ship slowdown at Swiftsure Bank

The Swiftsure Bank slowdown will take effect across both the outbound and inbound shipping lanes, a total distance of 23 nautical miles.

The slowdown will run from June 1 to October 31, 2023. Once the slowdown is in effect, large commercial ships transiting inbound and outbound through Swiftsure Bank are asked to voluntarily slow down to the below speeds, when it is safe and operationally feasible to do so:

  • 14.5 knots or less through the water for vehicle carriers, cruise ships and container vessels
  • 11 knots or less through the water for bulkers, tankers and government vessels

To learn more, visit the following resources:

Success requires collaboration

The logistics of coordinating a voluntary ship slowdown outside of the port authority’s jurisdiction are complex and involve collaboration with many other advisors and partners. The port authority is very grateful for the ongoing participation and support of our many advisors and partners in both Canada and the United States who contribute to the continued success of these voluntary initiatives. This voluntary slowdown is one of the commitments under the ECHO Program’s Species at Risk Act, Section 11 Conservation Agreement.


Annual reports:

Questions or feedback

For more information on the slowdown, please contact the ECHO Program team at [email protected] or the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority Operations Centre, which is available 24/7 at 604.665.9086. For updates on the slowdown and other ECHO Program initiatives, please subscribe to the ECHO Program newsletter.