Modified: January 14, 2023

Greatest Regulatory Overreach in American Maritime Law Raises Concerns

In a move to satisfy climate change advocates and liberal America, the Biden Administration has once again taken a decision that could have serious safety issues and economic impact. Many are referring to the recent decision by President Joe Biden as one of the most extraordinary regulatory overreach in American maritime law. Let’s explore the details of the proposal with Ehline Law and our maritime law personal injury attorneys.

New Regulations Aim to Protect Endangered Species without Considering Economic and Safety Impacts

Biden’s long arm has extended bureaucracy to the high seas after a recent proposal by the Biden Administration. The US Commerce Department, in collaboration with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, put forward certain proposals that would help protect the environment.

Several Changes Proposed by the Biden Administration

According to the news release by the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA), the proposal requires several changes, including the following.

Vessel Speed Restrictions

Previously, vessels larger than 65 feet in length had a 10-knot speed restriction in place. Under the new proposal, the speed restriction would now apply to all vessels 35 feet or greater in length. 

The NOAA Fisheries stated that maintaining low speeds helps protect the North Atlantic, right whale population from vessel strikes.

Right Whale Slow Zones

The proposal expands the go-slow zones from smaller discrete areas to the entire Atlantic coast. Under the newly proposed rule, the region extends from Florida to Massachusetts and spreads as far as 90 miles from the shore.

Right whale’s slow zones are areas with a likelihood of a North Atlantic right whale population. Under the proposal, mariners must ride their boats at 10 knots or lower to prevent collisions. The NOAA Fisheries has a map that marks all the potential locations where North Atlantic right whales might be to help mariners avoid hitting them. Zone restrictions will be in place for up to seven months every year.

Frank Hugelmeyer, the president of NMMA, stated that the proposals set forth by the US Commerce Department and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are the greatest regulatory overreach in American maritime law that could have serious safety and economic repercussions.

Safety Issues That Could Arise with the New Federal Government Proposal

For boats to move smoothly across the sea, it needs to reach a speed where the bow cuts the waves and minimizes the impact of the rough seas. According to Chris Edmonston, president of the Boat Owners Association of the United States, the waters in the ocean are rough enough to tow boats traveling under 10 knots around.

Boats ride on top of waves, cutting through the waters, but with the speed restrictions of 10 knots, it will be difficult for the captain to control the vessel.

Another concern is for the captain’s steering larger vessels. When approaching shore, it can be difficult for the captain of the ship to maintain steerage at 10 knots, which can result in a shore accident.

According to a pilot boat captain Trey Thompson, under the new vessel speed restrictions proposed by the Biden Administration, he would be unable to use his two 64-foot pilot boats as a side swell can make his boats roll.

Massive Negative Economic Impact of the New Proposal

When there is a lot of risk of riding boats into the port due to the speed restrictions, all the ports on the East Coast will have to consider closing operations until the waters are calm. Rough or windy days would increase the risk of a boating accident as it has enough force to toss around slower-moving vessels.

Speed restrictions can also have an adverse impact on the fishing industry. A one-hour journey may take three to four hours, making fishing trips longer, leading to inefficiencies and higher costs. According to Glenn Hughes, the president of the American Sportfishing Association, the speed restrictions may affect the 9 million anglers who fish on the Eastern coastline and may halt fishing.

Pat Healey, the owner of Viking Yachts, stated that the new proposal could also tremendously impact the boat-building industry. With the speed restrictions in place, reduced fishing and the low demand for boats can put the livelihoods of 1,600 boat builders on the line.

Why the Need for Enacting a Policy with Many Downsides?

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the policy intends to protect the endangered North Atlantic right whale population in the United States. Fast-moving vessels can kill right whales upon impact, and ensuring speed restrictions is one way of protecting the endangered species population.

The North Atlantic right whales feed on the surface of Cape Cod Bay in Plymouth, and the proposal extends go-slow zones from Florida to Massachusetts.

Although it is excellent to think about the environment and endangered species, it is also essential to consider whether the risks of such a policy outweigh the benefits. In this case, it seems that the Biden Administration did not think this through when penning down such a proposal.

Even federal government officials stated that faster-moving vessels, although a threat to marine life, only killed five North Atlantic right whales in the past 15 years. The proposal tries to protect North Atlantic right whales population (only about 350 left), but at what cost? The livelihood of the boat builders? The captain and their crew members as they get tossed around in rough waters? Or the economic cost of shutting down the East Coast ports?

President of NMMA Offers a Better Alternative to New Regulations

Instead of new regulations protecting the north Atlantic right whale population from vessel strikes, the president of NMMA, Frank Hugelmeyer, stated that the federal government could’ve introduced better measures to help protect the endangered species and prevent an economic calamity in the boating and fishing industry.

Geolocation techniques and other forms of tracking can help mariners (fishermen and boaters) avoid the areas where there are North Atlantic right whales. Such technologies can help protect the endangered population of right whales and the different industries that the new regulation can affect.

According to Frank Hugelmeyer, the government and the relevant authorities did not consult with the boaters, fishermen, and other relevant individuals who will be the most affected by the new proposal.

Legal Implications of the New Proposal

Besides economic and safety issues, the new proposal may stir up the legal world. If the speed restrictions result in the death of boaters or fishermen, it could create a whirlwind of lawsuits filed against the federal government.

Although the legal implications are still unclear, our personal injury lawyers are keeping an eye out for any updates pertaining to the new regulations.

Schedule a Free Consultation with Ehline Law Maritime Injury Lawyers

If you suffered injuries due to the negligence of a government entity, contact us at (833) LETS-SUE for a free consultation, as you may be eligible for compensation.

Top Notch American Injury Lawyer, Michael Ehline

Michael Ehline

Michael is a managing partner at the nationwide Ehline Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, APLC. He’s an inactive Marine and became a lawyer in the California State Bar Law Office Study Program, later receiving his J.D. from UWLA School of Law. Michael has won some of the world’s largest motorcycle accident settlements.

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