Due to new rules brought in by the federal government in an attempt to protect an unusual number of endangered right whales in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Oceanex has introduced a temporary surcharge for vessel operations between St. John's and Montreal.

The Canadian Coast Guard implemented a temporary reduced speed limit of 10 knots for vessels in a portion of that area. Normally those ships travel at around 18 knots.

This is in an effort by Ottawa to protect the endangered North Atlantic right whales seen in an unusual frequency in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

In order to make up for lost time, Oceanex said its boats will travel at 23 knots outside the area where the speed limit is temporarily reduced, which will mean extra fuel is needed.

Even with that increased speed in some areas, the changes mean an extra seven hours per sailing.

Oceanex said in its Friday press release that vessel departure times from Montreal are not expected to be impacted, but arrival times in Montreal and St. John's will be delayed.

Surcharge will go when reduced speeds gone

"Operating at increased speeds significantly increases vessel fuel consumption and modified terminal operating times will increase labour costs loading and discharging cargo in port," the company said in its release.

"As a result, Oceanex is implementing a temporary Marine Protection Surcharge of 4.0% of freight charges on future invoices related to the movement of goods to and from Newfoundland over Oceanex's Montreal service."

Oceanex cargo ship Sanderling

Oceanex says reduced speed limits mean route delays between St. John's and Montreal, as well as increased labour and fuel costs. (Photo courtesy Wes Pretty/MarineTraffic.com)

Oceanex said the reduced speeds cost the company around $100,000 per week for its two ships that travel the route.

However, the company said it is not passing the full cost on to customers, and is absorbing some of the increased costs itself.

The new temporary fees will come into effect on the next sailings.

As soon as the reduced speed is removed by the federal government, Oceanex said the surcharge will be removed.

Between 10 and 12 dead right whales have been found in the Gulf since June 7. Several others have washed ashore in the U.S. There are only about 500 North Atlantic right whales left in the world.

With files from Peter Cowan