Mainbrace Live: U.S. Maritime Regulatory Update

Blank Rome’s internationally recognized Maritime & International Trade practice group presents a new series of informative webinars covering hot topics in the shipping industry and key insights into 2021 and beyond. Sessions will cover:

    • Sanctions and international trade
    • Offshore wind developments
    • Shipping litigation
    • Maritime regulation
    • Ship finance
    • And more!

For the fourth webinar in our Mainbrace Live series, Blank Rome LLP attorneys Jeanne M. GrassoDana S. Merkel, and Stefanos N. Roulakis presented “U.S. Maritime Regulatory Update” on Tuesday, June 22, 2021.

Jeanne, Dana, and Stefanos discussed:

    • The conundrum in ballast water management: VIDA, VGP, and the IMO
    • Ongoing industry challenges as COVID-19 continues
    • Emerging greenhouse gas regulation and shipping

MODERATOR

    • Jeanne M. Grasso, Partner and Co-Chair, Maritime & International Trade Practice Group

PRESENTERS

To watch a recording of this webinar, please go to the webinar on-demand registration page here.

Considerations on the Use of Offshore Wind Vessels for U.S. Operations

Jonathan K. Waldron and Dana S. Merkel

As the offshore wind industry is growing in the United States, there is an influx of vessels that are considering operating on the U.S. outer continental shelf (“OCS”), both foreign- and U.S.-flag Jones Act-qualified vessels. An important consideration in planning for operations on the U.S. OCS is how the vessel must be crewed for such operations, which is often overlooked or misunderstood. 

Foreign-Flag Vessels

The U.S. Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (“OCSLA”) generally requires all vessels that are engaged in “OCS activities” to crew the vessels with U.S. citizens. The U.S. Coast Guard defines “OCS Activity” as “any offshore activity associated with exploration for, or development or production of, the minerals of the Outer Continental Shelf.” There is an exception to this rule that allows foreign-flag vessels that are over 50-percent foreign owned or controlled by foreign citizens to engage in U.S. OCS activities using foreign-citizen crewmembers. To use this exception, a formal application to the U.S. Coast Guard is required, which if validated by the U.S. Coast Guard, results in the issuance of a letter of non-applicability stating that the U.S. manning requirements do not apply to the vessel.

With respect to offshore wind farm work, the U.S. Coast Guard has taken the position that such work is not an OCS activity subject to this OCSLA requirement and the U.S. crew requirement does not apply. However, OCSLA was amended on January 1, 2021, to expressly clarify that U.S. laws, including the Jones Act, apply to offshore wind farm work in the same manner as they do to oil and gas work. The U.S. Coast Guard is now reviewing this change and, ultimately, we expect the Coast Guard to change its position on OCS activities and begin applying the U.S. citizen crew requirements to vessels engaged in offshore wind farm work. 

Continue reading “Considerations on the Use of Offshore Wind Vessels for U.S. Operations”

Mainbrace Live: U.S. Maritime Litigation Trends

Blank Rome’s internationally recognized Maritime & International Trade practice group presents a new series of informative webinars covering hot topics in the shipping industry and key insights into 2021 and beyond. Sessions will cover:

    • Sanctions and international trade
    • Offshore wind developments
    • Shipping litigation
    • Maritime regulation
    • Ship finance
    • And more!

For the third webinar in our Mainbrace Live series, Blank Rome LLP attorneys William R. Bennett, IIILauren B. WilgusJeremy A. HerschaftZachary J. Wyatte, and Noe S. Hamra presented “U.S. Maritime Litigation Trends” on Tuesday, May 18, 2021.

Bill, Lauren, Jeremy, Zach, and Noe discussed:

    • 1782: Purpose and criteria 
    • Judgment enforcement: Arrest, attachment, and more 
    • Timeline of a federal case: From complaint to trial, discovery, etc. 
    • Spill investigations: Practical “boots on the ground” information

MODERATOR

PRESENTERS

To watch a recording of this webinar, please go to the webinar on-demand registration page here.

Mainbrace Live: U.S. Offshore Wind Industry Update

Blank Rome’s internationally recognized Maritime & International Trade practice group presents a new series of informative webinars covering hot topics in the shipping industry and key insights into 2021 and beyond. Sessions will cover:

    • Sanctions and international trade
    • Offshore wind developments
    • Shipping litigation
    • Maritime regulation
    • Ship finance
    • And more!

For the second webinar in our Mainbrace Live series, Blank Rome LLP Maritime attorneys Thomas H. Belknap, Jr.Joan M. BondareffJonathan K. WaldronDouglas J. Shoemaker, and Dana S. Merkel presented “U.S. Offshore Wind Industry Update” on Tuesday, April 27, 2021.

Tom, Joan, Jon, Douglas, and Dana discussed:

    • U.S. offshore wind development projects and infrastructure
    • Biden Administration’s commitments to expand renewable energy
    • The Jones Act’s impacts on existing and planned offshore wind installation and servicing projects
    • Pitfalls and opportunities for contractors and service providers looking to enter the industry

MODERATOR

PRESENTERS

You can read coverage of this webinar at TradeWinds here.

To watch a recording of this webinar, please go to the webinar on-demand registration page here.

Mainbrace Live: Prepare for the Biden Administration’s Maritime & Foreign Policy

Blank Rome’s internationally recognized Maritime & International Trade practice group presents a new series of informative webinars covering hot topics in the shipping industry and key insights into 2021 and beyond. Sessions will cover:

    • Sanctions and international trade
    • Offshore wind developments
    • Shipping litigation
    • Maritime regulation
    • Ship finance
    • And more! 

To open the series, on April 13, 2021, Blank Rome LLP Maritime Partners Matthew J. Thomas and Kierstan L. Carlson, along with Blank Rome Government Relations LLC Senior Advisor David S. Jansen, presented “Mainbrace Live: Prepare for the Biden Administration’s Maritime & Foreign Policy.”

Matt, Kierstan, and David discussed the outlook for maritime policymaking under the new Administration and its impacts on the global shipping industry, including:

    • Maritime outlook for the new Congress and Administration
    • International trade sanctions and foreign policy 
    • Enforcement trends

MODERATOR

PRESENTERS

To watch a recording of this webinar, please go to the webinar on-demand registration page here.

CBP Modifies First Offshore Wind Ruling

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

Stakeholders in offshore wind construction projects, including vessel owners and operators, project developers, and equipment manufacturers, should ensure that their plans for offshore wind development take into consideration the implications of U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (“CBP”) most recent Jones Act ruling. While a previous ruling issued by CBP in January 2021 changed course by ruling that “pristine sites” were subject to the Coastwise Merchandise Statute (commonly referred to as the Jones Act), CBP has modified this ruling generally in line with past precedent. Nonetheless, CBP’s modification creates some changes for Jones Act compliance in the offshore wind sector.

On January 27, 2021, CBP ignited controversy in its first Jones Act ruling on offshore wind since the passage of the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (“NDAA”). The NDAA, through an amendment to the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (“OCSLA”), clarified that the Jones Act applied to renewable energy projects on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf (“OCS”), and stakeholders expected that the same cabotage rules which have applied to mineral energy development projects would equally apply to offshore wind. Nonetheless, in HQ H309186, CBP deviated from decades of precedent by ruling that the lading of “scour protection” materials by a non-coastwise qualified vessel at a U.S. coastwise point (i.e., a port or place in the United States), and unlading of these materials at a pristine site on the OCS, would violate the Jones Act. Reversing course after comments from industry stakeholders, CBP issued a modification, which held that the “Jones Act does not apply to activity occurring at the pristine seabed on the OCS, which has been CBP’s longstanding position on the issue.” HQ H317289 (March 25, 2021). While CBP’s reversal appears to be consistent with “longstanding” precedent on pristine sites, the modification itself raises questions about the applicability of the Jones Act in certain contexts as discussed further below.

BACKGROUND

Decades after extending federal law (including the Jones Act) to the OCS for mineral-related energy development projects, Congress enacted the 2021 NDAA, which included a provision confirming that the Jones Act applies to all offshore energy development on the Outer Continental Shelf, including wind energy. While most offshore wind projects were planned with Jones Act compliance in mind, this has generally been a welcome development for all stakeholders, with the hope that it would bring needed clarity and certainty to renewable energy development projects offshore.

However, CBP’s first shot out of the gate in January missed the mark, although the agency should be lauded for issuing a correction in short order last month. In the initial ruling, Great Lakes Dredge and Dock (“Great Lakes”) proposed to transport and unlade “scour protection” materials (i.e., rocks) to protect wind turbine generator (“WTG”) foundations in conjunction with the construction of the Vineyard Wind Project located on the OCS off the southeast shore of Martha’s Vineyard. Great Lakes proposed unlading the materials at the WTG sites on the OCS in layers and at different phases of the WTG installation process using both coastwise and non-coastwise vessels under various scenarios.

Please click here for the full client alert.

BIMCO Adopts New Clauses and Contracts

Keith B. Letourneau, Matthew J. Thomas, and Zachary J. Wyatte






New Development

The Baltic and International Maritime Council’s (“BIMCO”) Documentary Committee adopted several new clauses and contracts at its recent meeting held on January 25, 2021. Included were: (1) a new charter sanctions clause, (2) a clause promoting transparency and dialogue between owners and charterers, and (3) tug, barge, and floating hotel contracts. Given the prevalence of U.S. sanctions against myriad governmental and private-party actors worldwide, the scourge of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the construction advent of new offshore wind farm structures, each of these clauses and contracts warrant consideration by maritime law practitioners and commercial operators alike.

Sanctions Clause for Container Vessel Time Charter Parties 2021

In recognizing the complexity of international sanctions regimes, coupled with the fact that they consistently change as the number of new restrictions continues to increase, BIMCO issued a sanctions clause for charter parties in the container trade in an effort to assist interested parties in complying with the worldwide sanctions regulations. This new clause was designed as part of an initiative to create a library of sanctions clauses that reflect the individual needs and characteristics of different trades and operations, as well as provide greater understanding of the responsibilities assumed by owners. It is the last step in a triad of sanctions clause updates, which comes more than a year after BIMCO’s revised standard sanctions clauses for time and voyage charters. As the various shipping subsectors possess separate risks associated with different market realities, BIMCO tailored this clause to address the characteristics of the container industry, specifically to address: (1) transactions with a “Sanctioned Party,” and (2) voyages involving a “Sanctioned Cargo.”

Please click here for the full client alert.

EPA Publishes Its Long-Anticipated VIDA Proposed Rule

Jeanne M. Grasso and Dana S. Merkel

On October 26, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) formally published in the Federal Register its long-anticipated standards for discharges incidental to the normal operation of vessels pursuant to the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act (“VIDA”). Signed into law on December 4, 2018, as part of the Frank LoBiondo Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2018, VIDA established a new framework for the regulation of discharges incidental to the normal operation of vessels in an attempt to bring uniformity, consistency, and certainty to the regulation of discharges from U.S.-flag and foreign-flag vessels. Comments were due November 25, 2020, and the comment period is now closed. 

The first step in implementing VIDA requires the EPA to develop federal performance standards for “marine pollution control devices,” which includes any equipment or management practice (or combination thereof) to manage incidental discharges from vessels. The EPA’s proposal sets standards for 20 types of vessel discharges incidental to normal operations. The program implemented under VIDA will replace the EPA’s Vessel General Permit and certain U.S. Coast Guard (“USCG”) regulations for ballast water a few years from now, after the USCG finalizes regulations to implement the EPA’s standards, including compliance, monitoring, inspections, and enforcement.

Background

VIDA was the culmination of years of discussion, debate, and litigation concerning discharges incidental to the normal operation of vessels. Although back in the 1970s, the EPA initially exempted these discharges from the Clean Water Act’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permitting program due to the burden of permitting every vessel entering U.S. waters, a federal court held in 2006 that the EPA must issue permits for vessel discharges. In response, the EPA developed the 2008 Vessel General Permit (“VGP”). The 2008 VGP was eventually replaced by the 2013 VGP, which contained some more stringent requirements, such as numeric limits on ballast water discharges, a requirement to use environmentally acceptable lubricants, and new monitoring requirements for ballast water, bilge water, and graywater.

Continue reading “EPA Publishes Its Long-Anticipated VIDA Proposed Rule”

MARPOL Electronic Recordkeeping—Finally a Reality

Joan M. Bondareff and Dana S. Merkel

Joan M. BondareffLong-awaited amendments to the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (“MARPOL”) entered into force on October 1, 2020, which expressly permit the use of electronic record books for certain MARPOL-required logs. Although the United States reserved its decision regarding adoption of the amendments when they were approved by the International Maritime Organization (“IMO”) in May 2019, the United States ultimately accepted their adoption in accordance with the tacit acceptance procedure. This is a significant and welcomed development.

Background

Electronic record books have been the subject of much debate and consideration at the IMO and within the United States for a number of years. During MEPC 74 in May 2019, amendments were approved, revising MARPOL Annexes I, II, V, and VI to allow the use of electronic record books approved by the vessels’ Administration for the Oil Record Book (“ORB”), Cargo Record Book, Garbage Record Book, and Annex VI air pollution prevention recordkeeping requirements. In adopting the amendments, the IMO stated the use of electronic record books “should be encouraged as it may have many benefits for the retention of records by companies, crew, and officers.” These amendments entered into force on October 1, 2020, although a number of flag States believed the previous MARPOL language provided them with the discretion to allow the use of electronic record books and had already approved their use on vessels for some years. Even so, the permissibility of using electronic record books to meet MARPOL requirements is now clear.

Continue reading “MARPOL Electronic Recordkeeping—Finally a Reality”

EPA’s Long-Anticipated VIDA Proposed Rule Now Available

Jeanne M. Grasso and Dana S. Merkel

NEW DEVELOPMENT

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) made available its long-anticipated standards for discharges incidental to the normal operation of vessels pursuant to the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act (“VIDA”) on October 6, 2020. Signed into law on December 4, 2018 as part of the Frank LoBiondo Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2018, VIDA established a new framework for the regulation of discharges incidental to the normal operation of vessels in an attempt to bring consistency and certainty to the regulation of discharges from U.S.- and foreign-flag vessels.

The first step in implementing VIDA requires EPA to develop federal performance standards for “marine pollution control devices,” which includes any equipment or management practice (or combination thereof) to manage incidental discharges from vessels. After some delays, EPA posted its notice of proposed rulemaking on October 6, available here, to set standards for 20 types of vessel discharges incidental to normal operations. The program implemented under VIDA will replace EPA’s Vessel General Permit and certain U.S. Coast Guard (“USCG”) regulations for ballast water a few years from now, after the USCG finalizes regulations to implement EPA’s standards, including compliance, monitoring, inspections, and enforcement.

BACKGROUND

VIDA was the culmination of years of discussion, debate, and litigation concerning discharges incidental to the normal operation of vessels. Although back in the 1970s EPA initially exempted these discharges from the Clean Water Act’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (“NPDES”) permitting program due to the burden of permitting every vessel entering U.S. waters, a federal court ruled in 2006 that EPA must issue permits for vessel discharges. In response, EPA developed the 2008 Vessel General Permit (“VGP”). The 2008 VGP was eventually replaced by the 2013 VGP, which contained some more stringent requirements, such as numeric limits on ballast water discharges, a requirement to use environmentally acceptable lubricants, and new monitoring requirements for ballast water, bilge water, and graywater.

Please click here for the full client alert.