Arbitrating Maritime Disputes

Thomas H. Belknap, Jr. and Douglas J. Shoemaker

When parties negotiate and draft maritime contracts, they inevitably consider whether, and if so, how, to define the process for dispute resolution. While arbitration is practically universal in “blue-water” charterparties, it is also common in other maritime agreements, such as vessel sale, construction and repair, supplies, commodity sale, towing, stevedoring, and terminal agreements, among many others. Even though some parties and lawyers generally oppose arbitration, the “pros” often outweigh the “cons,” and most specific concerns can be resolved by careful drafting of the arbitration provision. As stated by the U.S. Supreme Court, arbitration “is a matter of consent, not coercion.” Stolt–Nielsen S.A. v. AnimalFeeds Int’l Corp., 559 U.S. 662, 681 (2010). Parties may structure their arbitration agreements as they see fit.

Efficiency and Flexibility

Perhaps the most important consideration for any commercial party is that an arbitration is (or should be) more efficient than litigation. Arbitrations tend to be quicker and less costly. While it is true that the parties must pay for the arbitrators’ time, this is offset by the streamlined and more flexible process. Unlike some of the broader international arbitration organizations (such as the International Chamber of Commerce and American Arbitration Association), the established maritime arbitration organizations (e.g., the Society of Maritime Arbitrators (“SMA”) of New York and the Houston Maritime Arbitration Association (“HMAA”)) do not impose administrative fees. Continue reading “Arbitrating Maritime Disputes”

2018 Pro Bono Report

Welcome to Blank Rome’s 2018 Pro Bono Report, which highlights various pro bono cases, clinics, and projects that our attorneys worked on throughout the year to provide equal access to justice in our communities.

In particular, we discuss our significant work on behalf of veterans, immigrants, LGBTQ+ individuals, the homeless, senior citizens, and small business owners.

Also featured in this report:

  • Blank Rome’s 2018 Pro Bono Year in Review
  • Tribute to Mat Rotenberg, a pro bono champion for local nonprofits
  • Summary of pro bono awards presented to our Firm and attorneys
  • Blank Rome’s Community Partners and 2018 Pro Bono Honor Roll

To learn more about Blank Rome’s pro bono initiatives, please visit blankrome.com/pro-bono.

Download Blank Rome’s 2018 Pro Bono Report here.

 

Blank Rome Relocates New York Office

Dear Clients, Alumni, and Friends:

We are pleased to announce that we have successfully completed the relocation of our New York office from the Chrysler Building to our new home at the recently redesigned, iconic 1271 Avenue of the Americas, formerly known as the Time & Life Building, located in Rockefeller Center in Midtown Manhattan. We designed our space to be modern, bright, collaborative, and flexible so that we can continue to grow and meet the unique needs of our clients.

For your records, our full New York address is:

1271 Avenue of the Americas | New York, NY 10020 | 212.885.5000

We established our New York presence in 2000 when we combined with Tenzer Greenblatt LLP—a firm with New York roots dating back to 1937. Collectively, we operated out of the Chrysler Building for 40 years. With 150 attorneys, our New York office is one of our largest locations and has experienced sustained growth over the past two decades. This move underscores our continued commitment to our clients, the New York market, and our goals for ongoing expansion.

Special thanks to Michael Mullman, who led this important relocation project, and Norman Heller, Martin Luskin, and Robert Mittman, current and former chairs of our New York office, for finding an ideal location with amenities that support our leading New York-based practices in financial services, corporate, mergers and acquisitions, securities, real estate, maritime, matrimonial and family law, litigation, business restructuring and bankruptcy, business tax, insurance recovery, and trusts and estates.

We look forward to serving our clients from our new office and invite you to come visit us soon!

Regards,

Grant S. Palmer
Managing Partner & CEO, Blank Rome LLP
215.569.5578 | palmer@blankrome.com

Alan J. Hoffman
Chair, Blank Rome LLP
215.569.5505 | hoffman@blankrome.com

Update on UNCITRAL Insolvency Working Group

Rick Antonoff and Evan J. Zucker

The Insolvency Working Group of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (“UNCITRAL”)1 has been busy this past year, working on three new model laws and developing work on at least two possible future projects.2 The Insolvency Working Group is responsible for drafting the Model Law on Cross-Border Insolvency (the “CBI Model Law”) in 1997, which has since been adopted in 46 countries and is under consideration in several others. In 2005, the United States adopted the CBI Model Law as Chapter 15 of the United States Bankruptcy Code.

Insolvency-Related Judgments

In May 2018, the Insolvency Working Group completed its work on a Model Law on Recognition and Enforcement of Insolvency-Related Judgments (the “IRJ Model Law”). The Insolvency Working Group determined that there was a need for the IRJ Model Law after judicial decisions in certain countries declined to recognize judgments related to foreign insolvency proceedings. In addition, the Insolvency Working Group noted that many international treaties addressing foreign judgments exclude insolvency-related judgments, and countries that do recognize foreign insolvency-related judgments have inconsistent rules about when a judgment is related to an insolvency proceeding. (For more information, please read our article published in INSOL International’s Special Report (March 2019), UNCITRAL’s Model law on Recognition and Enforcement of Insolvency-Related Judgments—A Universalist Approach to Cross-Border Insolvency.) Continue reading “Update on UNCITRAL Insolvency Working Group”

Gulf Coast Update: Applying Doiron for Assessing Maritime Contracts Outside the Oilfield Services Arena

David G. Meyer

Whether a particular contract is “maritime” is a legal question that can often arise in disputes subject to potential adjudication in the U.S. court system. There can be several reasons for this. One concerns determining whether a civil action can be heard in federal court versus state court. If a maritime contract is at issue, a case might be litigated in federal instead of state courts, and/or a plaintiff might have the ability to file an action in federal court for a pre-judgment arrest or attachment of a vessel or other property of a defendant.

While a seemingly simple question, courts and litigants have long struggled with assessing whether or not a particular contract is a maritime one. In 2004, in an effort to provide clarity and guidance on the issue, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in Norfolk v. Kirby in which it held:

“To ascertain whether a contract is a maritime one, we cannot look to whether a ship or other vessel was involved in the dispute, as we would in a putative maritime tort case. Nor can we simply look to the place of the contract’s formation or performance. Instead, the answer depends upon … the nature and character of the contract, and the true criterion is whether it has reference to maritime service or maritime transactions.1

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals’ Test for Assessing Whether a Contract Is Maritime

The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals’ jurisdiction includes the states that generate the majority of oil and gas drilling, exploration, and production activities in the United States’ inshore and offshore waters off the Gulf of Mexico (Texas, Louisiana, and, to a lesser extent, Mississippi and Alabama). It is common practice in that industry for service contracts to contain provisions assigning defense, indemnity, and additional insured obligations between the contracting parties for casualties that occur in the course of work under the contract. Continue reading “Gulf Coast Update: Applying Doiron for Assessing Maritime Contracts Outside the Oilfield Services Arena”

Severe Weather Emergency Recovery Team

Blank Rome’s Severe Weather Emergency Recovery Team (“SWERT”) helps those impacted by natural disasters like Hurricanes Florence, Harvey, Irma, and Maria, and by wildfires and mudslides in California and Colorado. We are an interdisciplinary group with decades of experience helping companies and individuals recover from severe weather events. Our team includes insurance recovery, labor and employment, government contracts, environmental, and energy attorneys, as well as government relations professionals with extensive experience in disaster recovery.

Learn more: blankrome.com/SWERT

Risk Management Tools for Maritime Companies

COMPLIANCE AUDIT PROGRAM

Blank Rome Maritime has developed a flexible, fixed-fee Compliance Audit 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 Audit Program can help your company, please visit blankrome.com/complianceauditprogram.


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 and cyber risk management awareness. Blank Rome’s maritime cyber risk management team has the capability to address cybersecurity issues associated with both land-based systems and systems onboard ships, including the implementation of the Guidelines on Cyber Security Onboard Ships and the IMO Guidelines on Maritime Cyber Risk Management in Safety Management Systems. To learn how Blank Rome’s Maritime Cyber Risk Management Program can help your company, please visit blankrome.com/cybersecurity.


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 blankrome.com/services/crossborder-international/international-trade or contact Matthew J. Thomas (mthomas@blankrome.com, 202.772.5971).