Newly proposed rules by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) pose a clear and present danger to Florida’s economy, its public safety and the security of our nation.
These federal rules would impose the most restrictive regulations on navigable waters from Pensacola to Tampa Bay, resulting in a near shut down of essential food, fuel, medical supplies and cargo imports and exports at four of Florida’s most active Gulf of Mexico seaports.
NOAA's proposal calls for eliminating all nighttime vessel traffic, and significantly reducing daytime vessel speeds, impacting Port Tampa Bay, SeaPort Manatee, Port Panama City and Port of Pensacola. NOAA said the rule is designed to protect a newly discovered whale, with a population size of between 50-100 whales, that is known to traverse the entire Gulf of Mexico region, and is not just limited to Florida waters.
“It’s as if NOAA wants Florida to hang up a ‘closed for business’ sign,” said Mike Rubin, president and CEO, Florida Ports Council. “Florida’s Gulf of Mexico seaports play an enormous role in fueling (petrol) Florida, and are essential suppliers of everything from food to medical supplies, and construction materials to build homes, roads and make ongoing hurricane repairs in Southwest Florida.”
Implicit in the federal government’s call for eliminating nighttime vessel traffic and reducing daytime vessel speeds only in Florida between Pensacola and Tampa Bay, is an uninformed assertion that Florida’s seaports have limited operations and shutting them down would not harm the supply chain in Florida or the broader U.S.
“Americans have not forgotten how the West Coast supply chain debacle of 2021 left shelves empty, medical supplies limited, and even threatened to cancel Christmas. Florida played an outsized role in resolving that crisis by encouraging ships to change lanes and sail to Florida seaports,” Rubin explained. “Florida’s reliable and resilient seaports proved to the world that the Sunshine State was ready, and as a result, those shipping lines have made strategic decisions to make Florida a more permanent first port of call.”
The Florida Ports Council has requested to NOAA that they rescind their proposed rule, and take action to work closely with affected ports, maritime industry stakeholders and other to accurately determine the effect any proposal would have on ports and the communities they serve. A copy of the FPC's letter to NOAA can be found here.