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.”

Kate Belmont Appointed to Port of NY/NJ and Port of Albany Area Maritime Security Committee’s Executive Steering Committee

Kate B. Belmont, a senior associate in Blank Rome’s maritime group, has been appointed to the Executive Steering Committee (“ESC”) to the Port of New York/New Jersey and Port of Albany Area Maritime Security Committee (“AMSC”), a community of port stakeholders with an interest in port security who regularly advise on maritime security issues.

The ESC comprises designated individuals from the maritime industry, maritime trade and labor organizations, maritime associations, and federal, state, and local law enforcement and first responders. Kate was invited to join the ESC for her valuable insight and knowledge of maritime cybersecurity and information security.

In addition to this new role and her practice at Blank Rome, Kate serves as president of the Women’s International Shipping and Trading Association USA’s New York/New Jersey Chapter, is a founding member of the Maritime Law Association Cybersecurity Committee, and is an adjunct professor at The Stevens Institute of Technology where she teaches Information Security and Law.

Blank Rome Achieves Mansfield Certification for Participation in Diversity Lab’s Mansfield Rule Program

Blank Rome LLP is proud to announce that the Firm has achieved Mansfield Certification after successfully completing Diversity Lab’s inaugural one-year Mansfield Rule pilot program. The certification recognizes 41 “trailblazing law firms” participating in the Mansfield Rule that have affirmatively considered at least 30 percent women and attorneys of color for leadership and governance roles, equity partner promotions, and senior lateral positions, to boost the representation of diverse lawyers in law firm leadership.

According to Diversity Lab’s press release announcing the firms that have achieved Mansfield Certification, one of the favorable outcomes of the inaugural Mansfield Rule is the significant surge in firms that now track and measure their candidate pipelines. Additionally, there is a reported incremental increase in diverse candidates considered for leadership roles, equity partner promotions, and lateral hiring by firms that tracked their pipelines prior to adopting the Mansfield Rule. Lisa Kirby, Director of Research & Knowledge Sharing at Diversity Lab, further stated in the press release that tracking candidate pipelines for “every single path that leads to leadership” as well as increasing the diversity of these pipelines is a positive step towards diversifying law firms’ next generation of leaders.

As a reward for achieving Mansfield Certification, Blank Rome and other participating certified firms will be able to send their newly promoted diverse and women partners to one of three upcoming Diversity Lab Client Forum events in New York, San Francisco, and Minneapolis/St. Paul. At the client forums, the diverse and women partners will learn from and have an opportunity to connect one-on-one or in small groups with legal department lawyers from more than 60 legal departments from leading companies across the country.

To read Blank Rome’s press release announcing this achievement, please click here.


Welcome to our latest 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.

Note from the Editor

Thomas H. Belknap, Jr.

Looking back through past issues of Mainbrace, the articles published over time clearly reflect the ebb and flow of “hot” topics in the maritime industry. These have included—among many others—the global financial crisis and resulting scramble for maritime security on claims, the sharp rise of piracy, the perilous state of maritime cybersecurity, the ever-changing ballast water and emissions regulations landscape, the flood of maritime bankruptcies, and the dynamic U.S. sanctions landscape. Finding these topics covered in our newsletter should not be surprising to our readers—we have always aimed to provide timely and relevant analysis of the issues that are important to our clients.

This issue of Mainbrace is no different. Perhaps most importantly, the #MeToo movement has spurred a long-overdue discussion of the role of women in the maritime industry and the many challenges they face, both shipboard and in the home office. In their article, Susan Bickley, Emery Richards, and Jeanne Grasso overview of this topic, both from the vantage point of the employee and the employer.

Additionally, Sean Pribyl addresses new developments in the industry’s inexorable march towards autonomous vessels; Jon Waldron and Joan Bondareff discuss recent developments that strongly indicate that offshore wind is finally moving from concept to mainstream project in the United States; and Joan and Jeanne highlight some of the issues arising from the massive (and growing) island of plastic circling the Pacific Ocean.

We also bring you a roundup of recent developments in the maritime litigation world, including raising new questions about when a defendant may be “found” in a district for purposes of maritime attachment under Rule B (Thomas Belknap and Noe Hamra); what constitutes a safe port in the modern world (Emma Jones); and when a “knock for knock” indemnity agreement may be enforceable under maritime law in oil and gas exploration contracts (David Meyer). And Mike Schaedle and Rick Antonoff from our Firm’s bankruptcy group discuss a recent decision concerning chapter 15 of the bankruptcy code, relating to recognizing foreign main proceedings.

Lastly, I am very excited to announce the launch of our maritime blog, Safe Passage, where readers can find archives of articles from our Mainbrace newsletter and also our maritime development advisories. Articles are sorted both chronologically and by broad topic area to make the blog not only easy to peruse, but also a useful research resource.

We hope you find this issue interesting and informative. As always, we welcome any comments and, particularly, ideas for future articles.

Jeffrey Moller Elected to the Maritime Law Association’s Board of Directors

Blank Rome Partner Jeffrey S. Moller has been elected to the board of directors of the Maritime Law Association of the United States (“MLA”) for a three-year term. A member since 1988, Jeffrey has also served as chairman of MLA’s Committee on Regulation of Vessel Operations.

Founded in 1899, the MLA is the primary maritime law organization in the United States with over 3,600 members. The objectives of the MLA are to advance reforms in U.S. maritime law; furnish a forum for discussion of problems affecting maritime law and its administration; participate as a constituent member of the Comité Maritime International and affiliated organization of the American Bar Association; and act with other associations in efforts to bring about a greater harmony in the shipping laws, regulations, and practices of different nations.

For more information, please visit