Congress at Work on Maritime Programs

Joan M. Bondareff and Jonathan K. Waldron

While much attention is being paid to the Mueller report and the internal Democratic fight regarding impeachment procedures for President Donald Trump, the 116th Congress and its respective committees are trying to do their regular work in the meantime—including passing both authorization bills and appropriation bills for fiscal year 2020. Here are some key legislative developments relevant to the marine industry.

Maritime Administration Authorization Bill

On May 15, 2019, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation reported S. 1439, the “Maritime Administration Authorization and Enhancement Act for Fiscal Year 2020,” sponsored by Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS), Chairman of the Committee. S. 1439 hopes to accomplish a multitude of goals, including a 10-year reauthorization of the Maritime Security Program, a U.S.-flagged fleet of commercial ships deemed critical for defense sealift operations; and codifying President Trump’s “military to mariner” executive order (E.O. 13860), aimed at streamlining the transition of active duty and retired military into civilian maritime jobs. Additionally, the bill includes the Port Operations, Research, and Technology (“PORT”) Act, which authorizes $600 million for the secretary of transportation to make grants for port and intermodal infrastructure projects; the Maritime SAFE Act, aimed at combatting illegal fishing; increased funding—up to $40 million for FY2020—for the Small Shipyard Grant Program; and full funding ($33 million) for the Title XI maritime guaranteed loan program to support the maritime industrial base. The bill requires that all components used in grant-funded projects are American-made and American-bought (a Baldwin amendment). The bill also authorizes a program to support infrastructure development at Department of Defense-designated Strategic Ports, and enacts reforms at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy regarding sexual harassment and assault prevention. Continue reading “Congress at Work on Maritime Programs”

Chambers USA 2019 Honors Blank Rome Maritime Attorneys and Practices

Band One | Shipping Litigation (New York) — Nationwide

What the team is known for: “Esteemed practice with significant experience handling high-profile maritime litigation for national and international clients, including P&I Clubs, shipping companies and owners. Highly regarded for crisis response and offering additional expertise in alternative dispute resolution. Maintains an excellent reputation for advising maritime industry entities in federal investigations arising from intentional misconduct allegations and casualty events, as well as in a host of cybersecurity issues. Recently active on a range of fuel contamination, cargo loss, salvage and collision cases.”

Strengths: “Clients value the firm’s ‘amazing array of subject matter experts across multiple disciplines and jurisdictions’ and its ‘assembling of the appropriate team to serve specific needs.’ Sources are impressed by the firm’s ‘very experienced and excellent team.’”

Notable Practitioners for Shipping Litigation (New York) – Nationwide Continue readingChambers USA 2019 Honors Blank Rome Maritime Attorneys and Practices”

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”