NOAA hears ship speed limit arguments

Proposed federal speed limits for large ships to prevent collisions with endangered whales were applauded by conservationists yesterday at a public hearing in Baltimore.

Shipping industry representatives expressed concern that the envisioned speed limits of 10 to 14 knots – which would affect ships longer than 65 feet at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay and outside several major Atlantic ports – would hurt business.

The killing of whales by ships became a subject of concern in the Chesapeake region most recently in April, when a rare sei whale was struck by a container ship that dragged its carcass into Baltimore Harbor. More than 20 killings of whales during collisions with ships have been confirmed along the East Coast over the past four years.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration thinks slowing down larger ships will mean fewer fatalities, said Gregory K. Silber, its coordinator of whale recovery activities.