Protecting the Supply Chain: U.S. Government Studies the Role of Federal Agencies in Ocean Carrier Bankruptcies

Rick Antonoff and Evan Jason Zucker

In December 2018, the Frank LoBiondo Coast Guard Authorization Act (the “LoBiondo Act”) was enacted to, among other things, improve and support the operation and administration of the Coast Guard and update maritime and environmental policy. Section 713 of the LoBiondo Act directs the Comptroller General of the United States to “conduct a study that examines the immediate aftermath of a major ocean carrier bankruptcy and its impact through the supply chain.” In accordance with that mandate, in January 2020, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) published a report on the role of the Federal Maritime Commission (the “FMC”) and Department of Commerce (“Commerce”) in an ocean carrier’s bankruptcy case.

The study was prompted by supply chain disruption at sea and at numerous ports caused by the bankruptcy of Hanjin Shipping Co., Ltd. in August 2016. At the time, Hanjin was one of the world’s largest integrated logistics and container shipping companies transporting cargo to and from ports throughout the world. The GAO concluded that the FMC and Commerce played an important monitoring function in the industry, but did not recommend any changes to either agency’s role in an ocean carrier bankruptcy. This is because the GAO found that industry participants have already taken steps to mitigate the effects of another ocean carrier bankruptcy and current law does not authorize these agencies to have a more active role.

The Ocean Carrier Industry

The maritime transport industry is the backbone of globalized trade and the manufacturing supply chain. According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development’s Review of Maritime Transport 2019, more than four-fifths of world merchandise trade by volume is carried by sea. Annually, more than one trillion dollars in U.S. exports and imports are moved by ocean vessels. Prior to the current pandemic, the industry was already coping with low-freight rates, reduced earnings, and oversupply as a result of increased global tariffs, volatility in demand, and new environmental regulations. These market conditions have led to the continued consolidation of ocean carriers. “In February 2019, the [top] 10 deep-sea container-shipping lines represented 90 per cent of deployed capacity and dominated the major East-West trade routes through three alliances.” This consolidation in the industry increases the risk of disruption that the financial instability of any one shipping company can have on the global supply chain.

Scope of the GAO Study

To address the objectives mandated in the LoBiondo Act, the GAO reviewed documents filed in Hanjin’s bankruptcy case and documents provided by the FMC and Commerce. Additionally, the GAO interviewed 15 industry stakeholders representing various roles in the supply chain including representatives from four ports, two ocean carriers, one association representing carriers, one association representing freight forwarders and customs brokers, five associations or companies representing transportation and equipment providers, one association representing retailers, one association representing agricultural cargo owners, and officials with the FMC and Commerce. Continue Reading

Understanding the U.S. Anti-Boycott Provisions

Mainbrace | June 2017 (No. 3)

George T. Boggs and Stefanos A. Roulakis

Question: I have to certify that my subsidiary that owns a vessel is not on the Arab League’s boycott blacklist. Can I do that?

Answer: If you are subject to the U.S. anti-boycott rules, the answer is “no,” but your subsidiary can provide the certification for itself. This is discussed more fully below.

A frequent issue that vessels and cargo bound for ports in the Middle East encounter is compliance with U.S. anti-boycott provisions. The issue may also arise in connection with restrictions in charter agreements for vessels. These provisions provide that a U.S. person engaged in almost any type of commerce cannot comply with or support an unsanctioned foreign boycott. These anti-boycott provisions were promulgated in response to the Arab League’s boycott of Israel, which remains the primary focus of the U.S. anti-boycott regulations. To avoid penalties, persons that trade with or in countries with a non-sanctioned boycott, such as the Arab League’s boycott of Israel, should familiarize themselves with the requirements of U.S. law.

Continue reading “Understanding the U.S. Anti-Boycott Provisions”

U.S. Export Controls Pose Risks for Offshore Energy Companies’ Return in Iran

Mainbrace | June 2016 (No. 3)

Matthew J. Thomas

In March, Blank Rome co-hosted a breakfast seminar in Dubai with Fichte & Co Legal Consultancy to discuss with local shipping and energy professionals the real risks and opportunities presented by the rollback of international sanctions on Iran. We were awed by the warm reception we received, the huge turnout (well over 250 clients and friends), and by the insightful questions and contributions of those who joined us. Continue reading “U.S. Export Controls Pose Risks for Offshore Energy Companies’ Return in Iran”

New China-Liberia Maritime Bilateral: Savings on Port Fees Just One Element of Broader Trade Cooperation

Mainbrace | June 2016 (No. 3)

Matthew J. Thomas

In a November 2015 state visit in Beijing, the leaders of the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of Liberia signed a historic bilateral maritime agreement offering significant benefits to Liberian ship- owners. Headlines on the bilateral highlighted the immediate economic impact of the agreement: a 28 percent discount on tonnage dues in Chinese ports, putting Liberian ships on parity with Chinese vessels, and potentially saving $75,000 to $150,000 in annual port costs for capesize, VLCC, and large container vessels. Less well-understood, however, are the reasons behind this new alliance, and where the relationship appears to be headed in the future. Continue reading “New China-Liberia Maritime Bilateral: Savings on Port Fees Just One Element of Broader Trade Cooperation”

DOJ Announces FCPA Pilot Program in an Effort to Incentivize Companies to Self-Report Misconduct

Mainbrace | June 2016 (No. 3)

Shawn M. Wright, Carlos F. Ortiz, Steven J. Roman, Ariel S. Glasner, and Mayling C. Blanco

 

 

 

On April 5, 2016, the chief of the Fraud Section for the U.S. Department of Justice’s (“DOJ”) Criminal Division issued a memorandum related to the DOJ’s prosecution of violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”). The memorandum highlighted the DOJ’s efforts to intensify its prosecution of FCPA violations by (1) increasing the Fraud Unit’s stable of prosecutors devoted to FCPA issues by 50 percent and creating teams of special FBI agents focused solely on FCPA matters, and (2) strengthening the DOJ’s collaboration with its foreign counterparts in order to combat bribery schemes worldwide. The memorandum also announced the start of a one-year pilot program designed to incentivize companies to voluntarily self-disclose FCPA-related misconduct. Continue reading “DOJ Announces FCPA Pilot Program in an Effort to Incentivize Companies to Self-Report Misconduct”

Mulling Sanctions: Will the 45th President Limit Trade with Iran and Cuba?

Mainbrace | March 2016 (No. 2)

Stefanos N. Roulakis

The election of the 45th President of the United States could have a drastic impact on the global maritime industry. There are few issues that changed for the maritime industry in the last year of the Obama administration as much as trade sanctions against Iran and Cuba. Continue reading “Mulling Sanctions: Will the 45th President Limit Trade with Iran and Cuba?”

Risk-Management Tools for Maritime Companies

Mainbrace | March 2016 (No. 2)

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 www.blankrome.com/  compliancereviewprogram.

Maritime Cybersecurity Review Program

Blank Rome provides a comprehensive solution for protecting your company’s property and reputation from the unprecedented cybersecurity 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 cybersecurity 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 www.blankrome.com/cybersecurity or contact Kate B. Belmont (KBelmont@BlankRome.com, 212.885.5075) or Steven L. Caponi (Caponi@BlankRome.com, 302.425.6408).

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 www.blankromemaritime.com or contact Matthew J. Thomas (MThomas@BlankRome.com, 202.772.5971).

January 16th Marked Changes in U.S. Sanctions on Iran

Matthew J. Thomas, Jonathan K. Waldron, and Dana S. Merkel

Action Item: January 16, 2016, marked Implementation Day under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (“JCPOA”), an agreement between Iran and the EU3+3 nations (the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia, China, and the United States) to ease international trade sanctions in exchange for constraints on Iran’s nuclear capabilities. As of January 16, the United States lifted a number of nuclear-related sanctions on Iran, particularly the so-called “secondary sanctions” related to non-U.S. persons. With limited exceptions, U.S. persons and companies continue to be broadly prohibited from engaging in transactions with Iran, but a limited exception has been implemented to permit foreign subsidiaries of U.S. entities to do business with Iran in some circumstances. Continue reading “January 16th Marked Changes in U.S. Sanctions on Iran”