The focus here is on boats used in freight and passenger transport (ferries, cargo ships, tankers, container ships, etc.), which are often over 100 meters long and travel at speeds of between 14 and over 40 knots. They travel a specific route, which often remains unchanged throughout the year, while the number of voyages can vary: this is particularly the case during the summer season with the transport of passengers between the islands of the Mediterranean (Corsica, Sardinia) and mainland Europe.

With annual marine traffic estimated at 220,000 merchant ships, commercial marine transport is especially intense in the western Mediterranean. The Pelagos Sanctuary and its boundaries are also impacted, as the area covers two of the Mediterranean Basin’s eight ‘marine traffic concentration zones’ (Genoa and Marseille) with at least eight passenger transport companies carrying out some thirty trips a day between the mainland, Corsica and Sardinia.  

Shipping routes used by commercial boats in the Mediterranean, 2001. Source: Di-Méglio and David (2006), based on data from SCOT (2004).

Map of the Pelagos Sanctuary and surrounding shipping lanes (source: International scientific workshop on spatial-temporal noise management, ACCOBAMS, October 2007).


In addition, while the Mediterranean makes up less than 1% of the total surface of the world’s oceans, it accounts for 28% of the world’s seaborne oil trade.

In the summer, the traffic between mainland Europe and Corsica is more intense, with between 700,000 and 900,000 people per year. The fact that hundreds of large cetaceans are concentrated in the area in the summer alongside this dense marine transport activity explains the increased risk of ship strikes. Marine traffic crossing the Pelagos area, especially for cargo transport (Motorways of the Sea) further emphasizes the need to develop measures to limit this risk of collisions.



Ship strikes, noise, perturbation, pollution (hydrocarbure), greenhouse gas emissions.

NB: Ballast waters, collected and discharged at sea, have occasionally been the source of biological and genetic pollution due to the translocation of some marine species, particularly species associated with marine mammals. It is believed that this practice has lead to the introduction in the Mediterranean of some 300 non-native species.