Note from the Editor

Thomas H. Belknap Jr.

Spring seems to be upon us, at last. Perhaps we have no right to complain about the weather, but that has never stopped us! It seems like our New York, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia offices spend the winter months coveting our Houston office’s weather, and our Houston office in turn spends the summer being envious of their fellow East Coast colleagues. Spring, perhaps, is that narrow window of time when everyone has something to be happy about. Spring is also a particularly exciting time for our New York office this year, as we get ready to relocate from our current Chrysler Building address to the iconic 1271 Avenue of the Americas building near Rockefeller Center. We hope that you will all come visit us once we’ve settled in!

In the meantime, we have a great new issue of Mainbrace for your reference and enjoyment. As always, we cover a lot of ground in this edition, and I think the range of timely topics aptly mirrors the breadth of Blank Rome’s Maritime practice. Jeremy Herschaft and Michelle Gitlitz offer a terrific article that moves past the basics of “what is blockchain” and discusses several new and practical applications that we are starting to see emerge in the maritime industry, and Joan Bondareff provides timely updates and developments on offshore wind farms in the United States as well as collaborates with Genevieve Cowan to offer a helpful summary of the opening weeks of the 116th Congress. We have an excellent article from our white collar defense attorneys, Carlos Ortiz and Mayling Blanco, with the assistance of our own maritime attorney Alexandra Clark, about the application of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in shipping, as well as an article from our bankruptcy & restructuring colleagues, Rick Antonoff and Evan Zucker, concerning court-to-court communications in cross-border insolvency cases. Additionally, Jeanne Grasso provides updates on recently announced ballast water regulations from the U.S. Coast Guard as well as critical provisions and obligations under the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act of 2018. Last, but certainly not least, Greg Linsin and Dana Merkel discuss critical MARPOL compliance matters, notably involving APPS violations, and we provide some noteworthy news and recognitions that honor the significant work of our maritime attorneys and practice.

We hope that you enjoy this issue. We also remind you that the articles published in past issues of Mainbrace do not just disappear. We have created an online archive for these articles called Safe Passage that can be found at Past articles are searchable by topic and by author, providing a helpful reference tool for your research.

As always, we welcome your feedback as well as any suggestions that you may have for articles for our next issue. Happy spring!

Recent Blank Rome Maritime Rankings

Chambers Global 2019

Chambers Global 2019 recognized Blank Rome as a global leader in Shipping: Litigation – Global-wide, as well as Partner John D. Kimball as a leading shipping litigation attorney.

As published in Chambers Global 2019:

Shipping Litigation – Global-wide

WHAT THE TEAM IS KNOWN FOR: “Well-regarded shipping litigation practice, with considerable

expertise in dealing with high-profile disputes, as well as maritime arbitration. Handles a wide range of issues, including casualties, charter party disputes, bankruptcy and environmental matters.

Acts for a mix of owners, operators, charterers, financial institutions and shipyards. Respected both within the USA and internationally for its deep industry knowledge, and noted for its expertise in shipping issues as they intersect with environmental litigation.”

STRENGTHS: “One peer described the team as a ‘real quality outfit.’”

John D. Kimball – Shipping: Litigation, Global-wide

The “excellent” John Kimball offers clients a wealth of experience across a range of different matters, including collisions, Chapter 11 bankruptcies and high-value salvage. He is regularly instructed by both domestic and international P&I clubs and frequently sits as an arbitrator in shipping disputes. He is based in New York.

To view all of Blank Rome’s Chambers Global 2019 rankings, please click here.

U.S. News & World Report – Best Lawyers 2019®

Blank Rome’s Maritime practice was ranked in the top national and regional tiers for Admiralty & Maritime Law, as well as nationally ranked in 29 practice areas and regionally ranked in 77 practice areas in the 2019 “Best Law Firms” survey by U.S. News & World Report – Best Lawyers®.

To view all of Blank Rome’s U.S. News & World Report – Best Lawyers 2019® rankings, please click here.

Who’s Who Legal 2018

The following Blank Rome Maritime attorneys were recognized in Who’s Who Legal 2018 for their leading shipping industry knowledge and practices.

To view all of Blank Rome’s Who’s Who Legal 2018 rankings, please click here.


Welcome to the March 2019 edition of Perspectives, Blank Rome’s diversity and inclusion newsletter that keeps you informed on our latest diversity news and provides insight on current diversity issues in the legal industry and beyond.

Featured in this edition:

    • Insightful and in-depth conversation with Judge James T. Giles
    • Update on participation in Mansfield Rule 2.0
    • Initiatives aimed at advancing women in law and promoting LGBTQ+ equality
    • Highlights from heritage history months celebrations
    • Overview of recent diversity and inclusion headlines, accolades, and events

To learn more about Blank Rome’s diversity and inclusion initiatives, please visit

Download Perspectives here.

Recent Maritime Elevations, Appointments, and Additions

New Maritime Elevations and Appointments

Lauren B. Wilgus Elevated to Blank Rome Of Counsel

Blank Rome is pleased to announce that Lauren B. Wilgus was elevated from associate to of counsel in the Firm’s Maritime and International Trade practice group, effective January 1, 2019. Lauren has more than 17 years of experience in the shipping industry and concentrates her practice in the areas of international and maritime litigation and alternate dispute resolution. She is also a member of the Firm’s Maritime Emergency Response Team, and has been an active member in numerous maritime industry organizations throughout her career.

To learn more, please read Blank Rome Announces 2019 Promotions: 14 Partners, 4 Of Counsel.

Richard V. Singleton Appointed Co-Chair of IBA’s Maritime and Transport Law Committee

Blank Rome Partner Richard V. Singleton has been appointed to serve a two-year term as co-chair of the International Bar Association’s (“IBA”) Maritime and Transport Law Committee, one of the oldest and most established committees of the IBA.

To learn more on Richard’s appointment, please click here.

Joan M. Bondareff Reappointed to Virginia Offshore Wind Development Authority

Blank Rome Of Counsel Joan M. Bondareff has been reappointed to a new four-year term on the Virginia Offshore Wind Development Authority where she has served as chair since November 2016.

To learn more, please read Virginia Offshore Wind Development Authority Elects New Officers (press release, January 4, 2019).

New Energy Attorneys Bolster Maritime Practice

Blank Rome Welcomes Experienced Energy Group to Firm’s Washington, D.C., Office

Blank Rome welcomed Partners Mark R. Haskell and Brett A. Snyder and Of Counsel George D. Billinson to the Firm’s Energy group in the Washington, D.C., office, on January 16. Together, they bring notable experience advising clients on a wide breadth of energy industry-related matters involving regulation, compliance, enforcement, transactions, and litigation.

In addition, their collective practice has significant maritime law synergies, with many of their projects involving the exports of liquified natural gas, natural gas liquids, and other commodities by ship. In joining Blank Rome and collaborating with the Firm’s leading maritime practice and attorneys, they are now able to offer their clients service from wellhead to shipping contract.

To learn more, please read Blank Rome Continues Ongoing Lateral Expansion with the Addition of Energy Group in Washington, D.C. (press release, January 16, 2019).

Noteworthy Maritime Publications

Navigating Maritime Arbitration: The Experts Speak

Blank Rome Partner John D. Kimball co-authored Navigating Maritime Arbitration: The Experts Speak (February 2019, Juris Legal Information, Arbitration Law), which brings together a collection of essays concerning virtually all aspects of maritime arbitration in the United States, with a strong focus on New York due to the volume of arbitrations the state holds.

The book features chapters written by a wide range of experienced arbitrators and attorneys who are widely recognized as being among the leading experts in maritime arbitration. In addition to John’s chapter, “Arbitrators’ Dilemma: Stick Your Head in The Sand?,” Blank Rome Partner Thomas H. Belknap, Jr., authored chapter 11, “Enforcing and Challenging Arbitral Awards.”

To learn more, please visit

United States, Ports & Terminals 2019

Blank Rome Partner Matthew J. Thomas authored the “United States” chapter in Ports & Terminals 2019, a Getting the Deal Through publication by Law Business Research Ltd (2018).

To learn more, please visit

Note from the Vice Chair

Jeanne M. Grasso

Happy fall! As the seasons change, so do the issues confronting the maritime industry…or not. Over the past few years, several topics have consistently remained in the headlines and as a thorn in the side of many shipowners. In the environmental arena, these issues have generally involved MARPOL enforcement, ballast water management, the Environmental Protection Agency’s (“EPA”) Vessel General Permit (“VGP”), and air emissions in light of the upcoming International Maritime Organization’s (“IMO”) 0.5-percent sulfur cap.

The MARPOL Annex I oily water separator cases have continued apace, with at least half a dozen guilty pleas in 2018 to date, and several more pending. These cases have been going on since the mid-1990s and not a lot has changed— engineers are still bypassing the oily water separator, albeit in more creative ways (e.g., discharging through the sewage or graywater systems), and finding creative ways to trick the oil content meter. Most cases still arise as a result of whistleblowers reporting misconduct to the U.S. Coast Guard (“USCG”), owners still must enter into burdensome security agreements to get their ship out of port, crewmembers are commonly “voluntarily” held in the United States for upwards of a year or more, and guilty pleas with fines and stringent environmental compliance plans are the outcome. To help owners avoid this fate, we have developed a Maritime Compliance Audit Program that tests the effectiveness of a company’s environmental management system to prevent MARPOL violations, a summary of which can be found here and which we are happy to discuss with you.

The ever-changing ballast water management regime continues to pose challenges as well as owners trying to navigate compliance with the IMO Convention and the USCG regulations. The USCG’s policy on compliance date extensions is ever-evolving and we, along with industry partners, continue to work with the USCG to find practical compliance-focused solutions for owners endeavoring to comply with both the USCG’s and IMO’s requirements in an efficient manner and effective manner.

As many of you know, the EPA’s 2013 Vessel General Permit, which regulates incidental discharges from vessels, is set to expire in December 2018. The expectation was that the EPA would publish a new draft for comment sometime last year or early this year, but that did not happen. That said, the Chamber of Shipping of America reports that the EPA expects the new proposed 2018 VGP to be published in March 2019, with at least a 30-day comment period. To this end, the current 2013 VGP is expected to be administratively continued until the final 2018 VGP is issued; vessels currently covered under the 2013 VGP will automatically be covered by the administrative continuance without further action; and new vessels whose keel is laid prior to December 18, 2018, must file a Notice of Intent (“NOI”) to be covered by the 2013 VGP prior to December 18, 2018, otherwise they will not be covered until the 2018 VGP is finalized (and hence cannot discharge in the United States, which basically prohibits them from operating in the United States).

And, IMO’s 2020 sulfur cap is looming on the horizon and investors, charterers, and owners are contemplating compliance options, as well as studying the risks and rewards of exhaust gas cleaning systems (i.e., scrubbers), which will be a topic addressed in the next issue of Mainbrace.

So, finally, we are proud that we have another issue Mainbrace to share with you, full of interesting information, ranging from what is (or is not) happening in the U.S. Congress to tariffs and trade, arbitral awards, and, importantly, celebrating diversity, and much, much more.

We hope you enjoy Mainbrace and we would welcome any feedback you might have. Cheers!

Joan Bondareff Receives NAMEPA’s 2018 Marine Environment Protection Award

Blank Rome Of Counsel Joan M. Bondareff has been named the North American Marine Environment Protection Association’s (“NAMEPA”) 2018 Marine Environment Protection Individual Award winner in recognition of her lifetime career in working to protect the marine environment. Joan serves as general counsel and secretary of NAMEPA, a nonprofit organization that promotes sustainable practices for the shipping industry.

Joan will be presented with the award at NAMEPA’s 2018 Annual Conference and Awards Dinner on October 25, 2018, aboard the Hornblower Infinity in New York City. The theme for this year’s conference is “The New CSR: Ethical, Strategic, Sustainable,” and the awards dinner will recognize the achievements of individuals and corporations who “Save Our Seas.”