Headlines: USCG interpretation of its regulations entitled to deference; Western Australia – oil spill from offshore rig; Gulf of Aden – suspected pirate skiff disarmed; Maritime contract v. maritime tort; DHS – second phase of QHSR; Grays Harbor, Washington – spill response plan update; MARAD – two more obsolete ships to be recycled; and IMO – sea disposal monitoring and assessment project.
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USCG interpretation of its regulations entitled to deference
The US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled that the Coast Guard’s interpretation of its regulations relating to a ship’s eligibility for a coastwise trade endorsement is entitled to deference by a reviewing court. In the instant case, a shipowner sought an advisory opinion as to whether certain work it planned to have done on the ship in a foreign shipyard would affect the ship’s continued eligibility to engage in the US coastwise trade. The Coast Guard considered the application under both its major component test and its considerable part test, ultimately concluding that the planned work would not violate either test. The work was performed in a foreign shipyard as planned and the Coast Guard renewed the ship’s coastwise eligibility. The Coast Guard action was then challenged by an association of US shipyards and by several competing carriers. The US District Court ruled that the Coast Guard policy was not properly based on the statute and thus not entitled to deference. It directed the agency to revoke the coastwise trade endorsement for the ship. The Coast Guard appealed. The appellate court reversed the decision of the lower court. It ruled that the Coast Guard is the interpretive body best positioned to take account of the myriad factors involved in arriving at a reasonable construction of the complex regulatory scheme for coastwise endorsements and that its interpretation offers a way to harmonize the regulation so that each provision has independent significance. Shipbuilders Council of America v. US Coast Guard, No. 08-1546 (4th Cir., August 21, 2009).
Western Australia – oil spill from offshore rig
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) issued a media release stating that it is coordinating response arrangements with regard to an oil spill from a rig off the Western Australia coast. A second media release states that the oil slick is mostly localized around the rig. Airplanes are applying dispersant to the slick. A third media release states that the dispersants have proven effective and the oil is mixing with the water. The rig operator is responsible for the leak and reports that it may be weeks before the leak can be fully stopped. A fourth media release states that use of dispersants continues. (8/25/09).
Gulf of Aden – suspected pirate skiff disarmed
The European Union Maritime Security Centre – Horn of Africa (MSC-HOA) issued a press release stating that, after a Japanese maritime patrol aircraft detected a suspected pirate skiff in the Gulf of Aden, EU forces intercepted and boarded the skiff. Because of a lack of evidence of piratical activity, the individuals were released, but the ladder, rifles, and rocket propelled grenades found on board were seized. (8/22/09).
Maritime contract v. maritime tort
In a rehearing, the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled that maritime contract law does not apply to a contract regarding provision of helicopter services to transport passengers from shore to an oil rig located on the outer continental shelf, despite the contract specifically stating that maritime law applied. The court noted that, if this had been an action in tort, maritime law would have applied due to the activity’s significant relationship to a traditional maritime activity. Alleman v. Omni Energy Services Corp., No. 08-30086 (5th Circ., August 21, 2009).
DHS – second phase of QHSR
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a reminder advising that the second phase of the second phase of the Quadrennial Homeland Security Review (QHSR) will be conducted during the period August 31 through September 6. Participants will be asked to prioritize and comment on proposed strategic objectives (what we want to achieve) for the homeland security missions and to discuss what must be done to achieve the objectives. At this point, the work of the QHSR study groups will have benefited from stakeholder and partner input from the first dialogue. The continued participation by the homeland security stakeholder and partner community throughout the National Dialogue is critical to the QHSR process. (8/24/09).
Grays Harbor, Washington – spill response plan update
The Washington State Department of Ecology issued a news release stating that it and the US Coast Guard are seeking input for use in updating and improving the Grays Harbor spill response plan. A public workshop will be held in Aberdeen, Washington on August 25. (8/21/09).
MARAD – two more obsolete ships to be recycled
The Department of Transportation issued a news release stating that the Maritime Administration (MARAD) has awarded contracts for the recycling of two more obsolete ships from the James River Reserve Fleet (JRRF). These are the 83rd and 84th ships to leave the JRRF since the recycling program began in 2001. (8/24/09). Note: I am so old that I remember when this process was referred to as scrapping.
IMO – sea disposal monitoring and assessment project
The IMO issued a circular advising that the London Convention and Protocol has launched its monitoring and assessment project in relation to sea disposal activities carried out since 1996. The purpose of this project is to assess the experiences of Contracting Parties with implementation of the LC/LP Generic Guidelines in relation to field monitoring activities. LC-LP.1/Circ.29 (7/27/09).
If you have questions regarding the above items, please contact the editor:
Dennis L. Bryant
Bryant’s Maritime Consulting
4845 SW 91st Way
Gainesville, FL 32608-8135
© Dennis L. Bryant – August 2009