North Atlantic Speed Limit for Cargo Ships May be Extended
The National Marine Fisheries Service is proposing to extend beyond Dec. 9, 2013, vessel speed restrictions imposed in 2008 to reduce the likelihood of lethal vessel collisions with North Atlantic right whales. NMFS regulations restrict vessel speeds to no more than 10 knots for vessels 65 ft. (19.8 m) or greater in overall length in certain locations and at certain times of the year along the east coast of the U.S. Atlantic seaboard.
NMFS explains that while there have been no vessel-related right whale deaths since the existing regulations went into effect, it is difficult to make definitive conclusions at this time regarding the long-term effectiveness of the current rule in protecting and recovering the right whale population. In addition, the economic impacts of the rule on shipping lines have been “substantially lower than were initially projected.” The agency is therefore inviting through Aug. 5 public comments on (a) the amount of time and the studies needed to determine the rule’s effects, (b) ongoing NMFS activities to monitor and assess the rule’s effectiveness and the data, metrics and time needed to do so, and (c) any modifications that would improve the effectiveness of the rule.