Note from the Editor

Thomas H. Belknap, Jr., Editor

When Mainbrace started some 30 years ago, it was a traditional print newsletter that went out by mail. Over the years, the publication has seen many updates in form and format, mirroring the industry-wide evolution from print to digital. This spring, Mainbrace took the next step in its evolution with the launch of our Mainbrace Live virtual webinar series. In April, we hosted two webinars, the first on preparing for the Biden administration’s maritime and foreign policy and the second on providing an update on the offshore wind industry. If you missed these presentations, you can still view them using the links in our Mainbrace Live section below. I also encourage you to register for our upcoming sessions, U.S. Maritime Litigation Trends (May 18) and U.S. Maritime Regulatory Update (June 22). If you miss them, don’t worry—recordings will be posted for later viewing. And keep an eye out for more Mainbrace Live sessions in due course.

As you will see from this latest newsletter issue, we aren’t abandoning or replacing the traditional print version of Mainbrace—we view Mainbrace Live as an addition to our communications toolbox. We are grateful for these opportunities to communicate with our clients and colleagues in the industry, and we hope that you enjoy this latest issue which, we think, dovetails nicely with the subjects covered in our new webinar series. As always, we welcome suggestions for new topics for Mainbrace, and now for Mainbrace Live as well.



June 22, 2021
6:00–7:00 a.m. PDT / 9:00–10:00 a.m. EDT / 1:00–2:00 p.m. GMT

Join Blank Rome maritime attorneys as they discuss the latest U.S. maritime regulatory updates, including:

  • The 8-year conundrum in ballast water management: VIDA, VGP, and IMO
  • Ongoing industry challenges as COVID-19 continues
  • Emerging greenhouse gas regulations and shipping




Blank Rome LLP and Blank Rome Government Relations LLC maritime attorneys and professionals discussed the outlook for maritime policymaking under the new Biden administration and Congress, as well as its impacts on the global shipping industry, including international trade sanctions, foreign policy, and enforcement trends. VIEW WEBINAR »


Blank Rome maritime attorneys discussed U.S. offshore wind development projects and infrastructure, the Biden administration’s commitments to expand renewable energy, the Jones Act’s impacts on existing and planned offshore wind installation and servicing projects, and pitfalls and opportunities for contractors and service providers looking to enter the industry. VIEW WEBINAR »

Blank Rome maritime attorneys discussed the latest U.S. maritime litigation trends, including the purpose of and criteria for section 1782; judgment enforcement; timeline of a federal case; and spill investigations. VIEW WEBINAR »

Analyzing Maritime (or Non-Maritime) Contracts and Practical Considerations for Litigation Strategy

William R. Bennett, III, Charles S. Marion, and Anthony Yanez

In many civil disputes, the application of choice of law principles as well as the jurisdiction in which the lawsuit is filed can have a significant impact on the outcome of a case. This is especially true where one of the parties conducts business in the maritime industry and the other does not. Some parties may prefer that state law be applied to the dispute because of a favorable state statute (such as a statute of limitations) or because the state’s courts have rendered decisions that support the parties’ position on a substantive issue. Others may prefer that federal law apply where it is more advantageous to a party given the facts of the case. Of course, some parties prefer to litigate in federal court rather than state court, or vice versa, for cost or other reasons.

There is a small subset of cases in which the question of whether maritime or admiralty law should be applied arises. One of the most significant decisions addressing that question is Norfolk Southern R. Co. v. James N. Kirby Pty, Ltd., 543 U.S. 14 (2004). In Kirby, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the liability of a rail carrier that transported over land cargo that was brought to the United States from Australia on board ships, through bills of lading calling for carriage from Australia to Huntsville, Alabama, via the Port of Savannah, Georgia, for damage to the cargo that occurred during that leg of the journey should be determined by applying maritime law, because the entire contract of carriage, and not just the ocean segment of it, constituted a maritime contract. More specifically, the court in Kirby determined that the default liability rule in the Carriage of Goods by Sea Act (“COGSA”) ($500 per package) applied to a train wreck that allegedly caused $1.5 million in damages. Continue reading “Analyzing Maritime (or Non-Maritime) Contracts and Practical Considerations for Litigation Strategy”

Exercising Maritime Liens against Cargo and Sub-Freights

Thomas H. Belknap Jr.

Vessel owners rarely carry cargo for their own account. More commonly by far, a vessel owner will charter its vessel to another party to carry their (or their sub-charterer’s) cargo. The contracts can vary widely—from voyage charters or contracts of affreightment to time charters and negotiable bills of lading (not to mention the more complex arrangements that one often sees for container cargos). But in most instances, vessel owners are in the business of transporting cargo on behalf of others and, all going well, of being paid to do so. This article is about one mechanism the vessel owner may use to ensure that it gets paid: the maritime lien against cargo.

The Impracticalities of Settled U.S. Maritime Law

It has been settled for over a century under U.S. maritime law that a shipowner has a maritime lien against cargo for charges incurred during the course of its carriage. As the Supreme Court stated in its 1866 decision in Bird of Paridise,1 “Ship-owners, unquestionably, as a general rule, have a lien upon the cargo for the freight, and consequently may retain the goods after the arrival of the ship at port of destination until the payment is made.” Traditionally, a maritime lien against cargo for freight and demurrage was considered a “possessory” lien, meaning that the lien is lost upon the delivery of the cargo to the consignee. To exercise its maritime lien, in other words, the vessel owner was expected to retain possession and control of the cargo until payment; if no payment was received, it needed to enforce its lien by maritime arrest while the cargo remained in its possession. Continue reading “Exercising Maritime Liens against Cargo and Sub-Freights”

Blank Rome Honored as a 2019 Best Law Firm for Women by Working Mother

Blank Rome was named one of the 2019 Best Law Firms for Women by Working Mother magazine, marking the third year that our Firm has been recognized for its commitment to creating one of the best women-friendly workplaces in the United States. The winning law firms were honored at the Best Law Firms for Women Gala, which was held at the Peninsula Chicago on September 19, 2019.

Working Mother’s annual list honors 60 U.S. law firms for their policies in the advancement of women, notably with regard to key factors such as women representation, flexibility, paid time off and leaves of absence, leadership, and compensation and advancement, as well as the development and retention of women. In addition to these key factors, this year’s list particularly recognized Blank Rome for our 2018 Women’s Leadership Summit, which assembled 120 women lawyers who collaborated to “hack” the topics of leadership, diversity and inclusion, and delivering value and increasing organizational efficiency.

For more information, please visit Blank Rome Honored as a 2019 Best Law Firm for Women by Working Mother.