Headlines: Court – state law immunizing pilots from personal liability upheld; Senate – Iran sanctions bill adopted; White House – President’s Budget for FY 2011; FMC – reorganization announced; PHMSA – miscellaneous HAZMAT packaging amendments; PHMSA – HAZMAT fee increase proposed; Willamette River – sternwheeler grounds temporarily; Australia – defect with Veleria S. Giorgio ALTURA lifebuoys; New Zealand – maritime qualifications and operational limits review; and New Zealand – EPIRB registration.
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Court – state law immunizing pilots from personal liability upheld
The US District Court for the Northern District of California ruled that a state statute immunizing pilots from liability for damages caused by their negligence in piloting vessels is not preempted by federal law. In the instant case, the insurance company that initially appointed defense counsel for the pilot on the Cosco Busan when it allided with a pier of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge on November 7, 2007 brought suit against the pilot, ship owner, and others to recover its expenditures. The insurance company moved for partial summary judgment on its right to recover, relying on a California statute which provides that a vessel shall either purchase trip insurance from the pilot or defend, indemnify, and hold harmless the pilot if an accident occurs due to the pilot’s negligence. The ship owner and others opposed the motion, contending that that the California statute is preempted by federal maritime law. The court rejected the ship owner’s argument, finding that federal law grants states broad authority over state pilotage matters. Continental Insurance Co. v. Cota, No. 08-2052 SC (N.D. Cal., January 27, 2010). Note: This decision was brought to my attention by my friend Charles M. Davis.
Senate – Iran sanctions bill adopted
The US Senate adopted the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2009 (S. 2799). If enacted into law, this measure would, among other things, impose economic sanctions on any person involved in certain transactions relating to the exportation of refined petroleum products to Iran. A somewhat similar bill, the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act of 2009 (H.R. 2194), was adopted by the House of Representatives in December. The next step is for a Conference Committee to meet in an attempt to resolve the differences between the two measures. (1/28/10).
White House – President’s Budget for FY 2011
The White House released the President’s Budget for FY 2011. The budget totals $3.8 trillion. While the budget at this stage is very broad-brush, with minimal details, the following allocations are of maritime interest: Coast Guard - $8.466 billion; Customs and Border Protection - $9.817 billion; Federal Maritime Administration - $352 million; St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation - $32 million; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration - $5.554 billion; and US Army Corps of Engineers: Civil Works - $5.986 billion. (2/1/10). Note: This is merely the commencement of the governmental funding process. Detailed budgets will emerge. Appropriations bills will be considered at hearings. Speeches will be delivered. If recent history is any guide, only a few appropriations bills will be enacted into law before the new fiscal year starts on October 1, 2010. The majority of the government will operate under continuing resolutions for several months before Congress finally bundles all the remaining bills together and adopts an Omnibus Appropriations Act.
FMC – reorganization announced
The Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) issued a news release stating that the agency has reorganized. The major changes are establishment of the position of Managing Director to ensure that the Commission’s major offices are cohesively directed toward achieving fair and efficient ocean transportation that helps improve the nation’s economy. The reorganization also gives heightened priority to the role of the Office of Consumer Affairs and Dispute Resolution Services (CADRS). The reorganization became effective on January 31. (2/1/10).
PHMSA – miscellaneous HAZMAT packaging amendments
The Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration (PHMSA) is amending its hazardous materials (HAZMAT) packaging regulations to enhance compliance flexibility, improve clarity, and reduce regulatory burdens. The amendments come into effect on October 1, but voluntary compliance is authorized as of March 4. 75 Fed. Reg. 5375 (February 2, 2010).
PHMSA – HAZMAT fee increase proposed
The Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration (PHMSA) proposes to increase the registration fee for hazardous material (HAZMAT) registrants not qualifying as a small business or not-for-profit organization from $975 (plus a $25 administrative fee) to $2,975 (plus a $25 administrative fee). The proposed fee increase is intended to fund the national Hazardous Materials Emergency Preparedness (HMEP) grants program. Comments on the proposal should be submitted by March 4. 75 Fed. Reg. 5358 (February 2, 2010).
Willamette River – sternwheeler grounds temporarily
The US Coast Guard issued a news release stating that a sternwheeler carrying 80 passengers and eight crew grounded in the Willamette River near Oregon City. A tugboat freed the sternwheeler and moved it to Portland. No injuries, pollution, or serious damage have been reported. The incident is under investigation. (1/31/10).
Australia – defect with Veleria S. Giorgio ALTURA lifebuoys
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) issued a notice drawing attention to potential defects that may be found in ALTURA 2.5 kg lifebuoys (Production lot 01/04, as marked on the lifebuoys) produced by Veleria S. Giorgio of Italy. In some cases, the buoyancy foam within the plastic shell has shrunk and water has entered through a 15 mm hole in the shell. If this model lifebuoy is found onboard, companies should arrange for renewal of the lifebuoy, either through the relevant classification society or directly. Marine Notice 3/2010 (2/2/10).
New Zealand – maritime qualifications and operational limits review
Maritime New Zealand issued a media release stating that the first stage of its review of maritime qualifications and operational limits (QOL Review) has been completed. Comment on the Review should be submitted by 1 March. (2/1/10).
New Zealand – EPRIB registration
Maritime New Zealand issued a media release stating that a surge in registrations show that people are making the switch from the 121.5 MHz emergency position indicating radio beacon (EPIRB) and other emergency beacons to the current 406 MHz beacons. On 1 February 2009, the COSPAS-SARSAT system ceased monitoring the 121.5 MHz frequency. Beacons utilizing the 121.5 MHz frequency were responsible for 93% of all false alarms in New Zealand and 97% of false alarms worldwide. The changeover has greatly reduced the number of false alerts. The beacon registration database allows rescue coordination centers (RCCs) to identify the beacon owner and reach that owner or their emergency contacts before mounting a potentially costly and unnecessary search. (2/1/10).
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 – February 2010