Letter Opposing the 10-knot Speed Restriction in the NMFS Rule
June 12, 2008
The Honorable Carlos M. Gutierrez
Secretary of Commerce
Office of the Secretary
Herbert Clark Hoover Building
1401 Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20230
Dear Secretary Gutierrez:
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the world's largest business federation representing more than three million businesses and organizations of every size, sector, and region, urges you not to impose a 10-knot speed restriction on all commercial vessels within 30 nautical miles of U.S. East Coast, as part of a final National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) rulemaking.
The primary purpose of the 10-knot speed restriction, as the Chamber understands it, is to protect endangered North Atlantic right whales from ship strikes. However, the Chamber believes that this rule, like all environmental regulations, should be based on sound science and the best data available, consider actual health risks, and avoid unnecessary burdens on the economy. In the present case, there is simply not a reliable scientific basis in the record of this rulemaking for imposing the 10-knot speed restriction, an unsafe maneuvering speed for many large ships. Very few large commercial vessels have been involved in ship strikes of any species of whale along the U.S. East Coast, and there has been only one "possible" fatal strike of a right whale by a large commercial ship, recorded in 1972. The primary culprits in those cases are not large commercial ships, but rather government vessels (e.g., Navy and Coast Guard), which the NMFS Proposed Rule exempts from regulation. But advanced technology has effectively reduced all ship strikes, as there have been no confirmed reports of a right whale death from a ship strike by government or commercial ships in 2007 or 2008.
A final NMFS rule imposing a 10-knot speed restriction on all commercial vessels within 30 nautical miles of the U.S. East Coast is not supported by sound science and the best data available, and could place an unnecessary burden on the shipping industry. It is worth noting that virtually the entire shipping industry (carriers and seafarers alike) stands unanimously opposed to the NMFS rule. The U.S. Chamber urges you not to impose the 10-knot speed restriction called for in the NMFS rule.
R. Bruce Josten