The Ocean Is Awash with Plastic: How Can the Maritime Industry Help?

Joan M. Bondareff and Jeanne M. Grasso

The eight-part series, Blue Planet II, narrated by Sir David Attenborough last year on BBC, seems to have awoken the public’s attention to the crisis of our oceans being littered with vast amounts of plastic, fishing gear, and other types of marine debris. As a result, cities, states, and nations around the world, as well as major cruise lines, are proactively looking at ways to reduce plastic to keep it from entering the sea.

The Extent of the Problem

Most plastic or marine debris comes from land-based sources, including from rivers that enter the sea, especially from coun­tries with less responsible garbage practices. For example, according to the BBC, most garbage in the ocean comes from 15 nations around the Pacific Rim, including China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, and Thailand.

According to a study published in Nature magazine and also reported in USA Today in March 2018, the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” a collection of floating plastic trash halfway between Hawaii and California, has grown to more than 600,000 square miles—an area twice the size of Texas. The trash is said to come from the Pacific Rim as well as North and South America. Since the garbage patch is in international waters, no nation has stepped up to clean it up. (Id.) Continue reading “The Ocean Is Awash with Plastic: How Can the Maritime Industry Help?”

Environmental Compliance Aboard Commercial Ships: Electronic Recordkeeping Is Overdue

Mainbrace | March 2018 (No.1)

Gregory F. Linsin and Kierstan L. Carlson

Environmental laws and regulations in the United States impose substantial recordkeeping and reporting obliga­tions on regulated industries. These requirements are designed to document a company’s compliance with the requirements and limitations established by the regulatory scheme as well as any applicable environmental permits. Regulated companies also are required to maintain their compliance documentation and to submit periodic com­prehensive reports to regulators detailing their compliance with environmental standards. These records are used by the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) and the delegated state regu­latory agencies to monitor compliance and, if permit exceedances or irregu­larities in the compliance records are detected, to evaluate the need for enforcement actions.

These substantial recordkeeping and reporting requirements were par­ticularly onerous on both industry and government, in part because records historically were required to be maintained and submitted in hard copy, which presented challenges inherent in managing enormous volumes of paper. Until recently, the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) and the EPA have resisted transitioning to electronic recordkeeping systems for environmental compli­ance data. This resistance was rooted in concerns about the reliability and security of electronic reporting (e.g., the gov­ernment wanted assurance that data submitted by private parties had not been manipulated and that the govern­ment’s ability to verify that the records were prepared and signed by a responsible corporate representative remained intact). Nevertheless, in the last few years and in light of the enhanced reliability of electronic information systems, the EPA decided to enter the 21st century: Continue reading “Environmental Compliance Aboard Commercial Ships: Electronic Recordkeeping Is Overdue”

Regulatory Stalemate in the Trump Era

Mainbrace | October 2017 (No.4)

Sean T. Pribyl, Jonathan K. Waldron, and Joan M. Bondareff

In the lead up to the general election, then-candidate Donald Trump often repeated campaign promises to massively cut federal regulations that he viewed as stifling to business growth and killing jobs. True to his word, in his first 200 days of office, President Trump has generally delivered on his promise to stymie new federal regulations, including those impacting the maritime industry. Continue reading “Regulatory Stalemate in the Trump Era”

U.S. Ballast Water Compliance Challenges and Considerations Now That Imo’s Ballast Water Convention Has Been Ratified

Jonathan K. Waldron, Jeanne M. Grasso, and Stefanos N. Roulakis

Action Item: Although the ratification of the IMO’s Ballast Water Convention will not alter U.S. compliance obligations, industry stakeholders must now consider their obligations under international law to ensure compliance with both regimes. Until the U.S. Coast Guard type-approves a ballast water management system (“BWMS”), owners and operators of both U.S. and foreign-flag vessels trading in U.S. waters should take steps to evaluate the compliance obligations under both regimes before making capital investments in BWMSs that may not comply with U.S. law. Continue reading “U.S. Ballast Water Compliance Challenges and Considerations Now That Imo’s Ballast Water Convention Has Been Ratified”

Risk-Management Tools for Maritime Companies

Mainbrace | June 2016 (No. 3)

Compliance Review Program

Blank Rome Maritime has developed a flexible, fixed-fee Compliance Review Program to help maritime companies mitigate the escalating risks in the maritime regulatory environment. The program provides concrete, practical guidance tailored to your operations to strengthen your regulatory compliance systems and minimize the risk of your company becoming an enforcement statistic. To learn how the Compliance Review Program can help your company, please visit  compliancereviewprogram.

Maritime Cybersecurity Review Program

Blank Rome provides a comprehensive solution for protecting your company’s property and reputation from the unprecedented cyber- security challenges present in today’s global digital economy. Our multidisciplinary team of leading cybersecurity and data privacy professionals advises clients on the potential consequences of cyber- security threats and how to implement comprehensive measures for mitigating cyber risks, prepare customized strategy and action plans, and provide ongoing support and maintenance to promote cybersecurity awareness. Blank Rome’s maritime cybersecurity team has the capability to address cybersecurity issues associated with both land-based systems and systems onboard ships, including the implementation of the BIMCO Guidelines on Cyber Security Onboard Ships. To learn how the Maritime Cybersecurity Review Program can help your company, please visit cybersecurity or contact Kate B. Belmont (, 212.885.5075).

Trade Sanctions and Export Compliance Review Program

Blank Rome’s Trade Sanctions and Export Compliance Review Program ensures that companies in the maritime, transportation, offshore, and commodities fields do not fall afoul of U.S. trade law requirements. U.S. requirements for trading with Iran, Cuba, Russia, Syria, and other hotspots change rapidly, and U.S. limits on banking and financial services, and restrictions on exports of U.S. goods, software, and technology, impact our shipping and energy clients daily. Our team will review and update our clients’ internal policies and procedures for complying with these rules on a fixed-fee basis. When needed, our trade team brings extensive experience in compliance audits and planning, investigations and enforcement matters, and government relations, tailored to provide practical and businesslike solutions for shipping, trading, and energy clients worldwide. To learn how the Trade Sanctions and Export Compliance Review Program can help your company, please visit or contact Matthew J. Thomas (, 202.772.5971).

The Well Control Final Rule Is Here, Finally

Jeanne M. Grasso, Jonathan K. Waldron, and Stefanos N. Roulakis

Action Item: The recently published Well Control Rule will require significant changes to Blow-Out Preventer (“BOP”) systems and well operations. Stakeholders in offshore oil and gas operations should carefully evaluate the new measures, review safety procedures, and develop plans to come into compliance within the time frames mandated by the regulations. Continue reading “The Well Control Final Rule Is Here, Finally”

Deepwater Horizon Court Ruling Closes the Gap on Responder Immunity

Mainbrace | March 2016 (No. 2)

Jonathan K. Waldron and Lauren B. Wilgus

On February 16, 2016, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana issued a landmark decision with respect to responder immunity. In In re DWH Oil Spill, MDL No. 2179 (ED La, February 16, 2016), the court granted the clean-up responder defendants’ motions for summary judgment with respect to claims asserted against them by plaintiffs who engaged in a variety of clean-up activities and were exposed to oil, dispersants, and other chemicals while doing so as a result of actions or omissions relating to the defendants’ use of dispersants and other response efforts during the Deepwater Horizon incident. Continue reading “Deepwater Horizon Court Ruling Closes the Gap on Responder Immunity”