It is estimated that the North Atlantic shipping speed reductions proposed by US government scientists to protect right whales could cost over a million dollars. While this is a hefty chunk of change, it is a relatively small percentage of the overall North Atlantic shipping industry’s profits (about $340 billion). Still, the evidence that a reduction in speed will reduce whale deaths and increase the right whale population is strong. So the only real question before the Office of Management and Budget should be whether this chunk will negatively impact shipping more than it will positively impact the most endangered of all whale species.
It’s a complex question, which may be why the proposal has languished with the OMB for so long. Since the shipping industry is wide and diverse, are there companies that are going to be so negatively impacted as to go under due to this new speed rule? Will shippers in a local area be unable to compete, due to a lower speed rule in places where more widespread shippers can make up the cost easily? How will transatlantic shipping be affected, and will we be able to continue to compete in the international shipping market?
However, despite the plausible validity of checking all sides of the story before issuing a rule, shipper’s claims that less whales would be injured if shipping boats go faster seems to treat whales like randomly floating masses. True, a faster boat will spend less time in a certain area of the water, but that doesn’t necessarily indicate less collisions. Whales are perceptive. When they see a giant thing bearing down on them slowly from the surface, they are not going to bonk into it headfirst, curious though they may be. And any child can tell you it’s easier to doge a ball that’s thrown gently than one speeding with force.
Hopefully this is a conclusion the OMB will be able to realize soon.