The Environmental Protection Agency could give Savannah's harbor pilots more time to comply with stricter pollution controls.
The pilot boats that go out to meet container ships coming into the Port of Savannah have to be relatively small, under 65 feet. Otherwise they would face speed restrictions designed to protect right whales.
That became a problem when emissions standards changed in 2017.
Master Pilot Trey Thompson said the lower-emission engines won't work.
"They're larger, heavier, and just won't fit in the boat that we need," he said.
The EPA is proposing a rule that would delay the stricter emissions standard until 2022.
The boats emit pollutants that are linked to asthma attacks and other lung problems.