Hurricane Ian’s devasting impacts on Florida have been undeniable. For many of our friends and neighbors in Southwest Florida, lives, as well as the landscape, are forever changed.
We know the important role that Florida’s ports play in helping our state get back on its feet, and I’m proud to say that our seaports have done an exceptional job at getting food, fuel and supplies into the hardest hit communities. There’s a reason our ports practice their hurricane preparedness efforts annually – to know exactly how to perform before, during and after a hurricane makes landfall.
While the size and scope of Hurricane Ian forced the U.S. Coast Guard Captain of the Port to temporarily close most of our seaports prior to landfall, thankfully, none of our ports sustained major damage and all were able to reopen quickly. As communities continue to recover, rest assured that Florida seaports will continue to play an outsized role ensuring that much needed supplies make their way to the most impacted communities.
Because Florida’s 16 deep-water seaports play a leading economic role in every region of our state, the Florida Ports Council is weighing in on proposed amendments to the North Atlantic Right Whale Vessel Strike Reduction Rule. While we have been tireless advocates and stewards in protecting the environment and marine life that surrounds our state, the proposed amendments present significant life and safety risks for all commercial, recreational and military mariners who rely on our ports.
Specifically, under the proposed rule, the speed restriction will force cargo and passenger vessels to slow their transits to dangerous levels and impeding vessel maneuverability. And while these safety factors are chief among our concerns, it should not go without stating that the rule changes could further impact an already-strained supply chain through additional delays and cost increases.
We are requesting that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) rescind its proposed rule change, and to work closely with affected ports and maritime stakeholders to accurately determine the effect the rule change would have on our ports and our communities.
We’ll continue to keep you posted on this and other important issues impacting Florida’s ports. As always, thank you for your leadership.