Headlines: Somalia – NATO warship facilitates release of hijacked Iranian vessel; USN – endorsement of IMO counter-piracy measures; Port Arthur – deadline for filing a claim in recent oil spill; USCG – FAQ regarding salvage and marine fire fighting; MARAD & USCG – EIS for TORP LNG DWP proposal; MARAD – use of foreign-flag anchor handling vessels in Beaufort and Chukchi Seas; MARAD – inventory of US-flag launch barges; USCG – overseas vessel inspection reimbursement policy; Portland, Maine – SONS exercise; Court – employer did not discriminate against mariner who lost his USCG license; Court – plaintiff may be compelled to arbitrate claim against foreign insurer; Court – LHWCA employer failed to overcome presumption; EC – use of mobile phones on ships in European waters; UK & Ireland – marine safety information via NAVTEX; and Vernal equinox – March 20, 2010.
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Somalia – NATO warship facilitates release of hijacked Iranian vessel
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) issued a news release stating that, by closely shadowing a small Iranian cargo vessel that had been hijacked by Somali pirates, release of the vessel by the pirates was facilitated. The pirates intended to use the vessel as a mothership and had departed the pirate camp at Garacad with the original crew still on board. The NATO warship shadowed the vessel so closely that the pirates were unable to make use of it. The pirates returned to Garacad and went ashore, releasing the vessel back to its proper crew. The Iranian cargo vessel then departed for the high seas, with the warship providing escort. (3/18/10).
USN – endorsement of IMO counter-piracy measures
The US Navy issued a news release wholeheartedly endorsing advice from the International Maritime Organization and other maritime bodies relating to counter-piracy measures, particularly the best management practices. (3/19/10).
Port Arthur – deadline for filing a claim in recent oil spill
The US District Court for the Eastern District of Texas posted Directions for Filing a Claim relating to the January 23 oil spill in the Port of Port Arthur from the tanker Eagle Otome. The claim in the limitation of liability proceeding must be filed and served on or before April 6, 2010. (3/18/10). Note: This item was brought to my attention by my good friend Niels Lyngso of West Gulf Maritime Association.
USCG – FAQ regarding salvage and marine fire fighting
The US Coast Guard posted various Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) regarding the salvage and marine fire fighting (SMFF) requirements found in the vessel response plan (VRP) regulations. The 2009 SMFF requirements come into force for VRPs that are updated and approved as of February 22, 2011. VRPs requiring five-year revisions by the compliance date or afterwards should be submitted at least 180 days in advance of the plan approval anniversary date and include the SMFF revisions. (3/18/10). Note: This item was brought to my attention by my good friend Jim Calhoun of T&T Bisso, LLC.
MARAD & USCG – EIS for TORP LNG DWP proposal
The Maritime Administration (MARAD) issued a notice stating that it and the US Coast Guard have completed the final supplemental environmental impact statement (FSEIS) for the proposed TORP liquefied natural gas (LNG) deepwater port (DWP) to be constructed in the Gulf of Mexico approximately 63 miles south of Mobile Point, Alabama. A public meeting will be held in Mobile on March 31. Written comments should be submitted by April 30. 75 Fed. Reg. 13644 (March 22, 2010).
MARAD – use of foreign-flag anchor handling vessels in Beaufort and Chukchi Seas
The Maritime Administration (MARAD) is seeking information regarding US-flag anchor handling vessels that are available for use in the Beaufort Sea and the Chukchi Sea. Federal law authorizes MARAD to permit use of foreign-flag anchor handling vessels in these waters in certain cases and for a limited period of time if no US-flag vessels are found to be suitable and reasonably available. Information on US-flag anchor handling vessels with ice class A3 or above should be submitted by April 21. 75 Fed. Reg. 13654 (March 22, 2010).
MARAD – inventory of US-flag launch barges
The Maritime Administration (MARAD) is updating its inventory of US-flag launch barges. Comments on the inventory should be submitted by April 21. 75 Fed. Reg. 13645 (March 22, 2010).
USCG – overseas vessel inspection reimbursement policy
The US Coast Guard issued interim internal guidance regarding reimbursement by a vessel owner/operator of Coast Guard expenses when the agency undertakes an overseas vessel inspection at the request of the owner/operator. ALCOAST 111/10 (3/8/10).
Portland, Maine – SONS exercise
The US Coast Guard issued a news release stating that on March 22-25, over 50 federal, state, and local agencies, as well as various private entities, will conduct a Spill of National Significance (SONS) oil spill response exercise in the vicinity of Portland, Maine. (3/19/10).
Court – employer did not discriminate in firing a mariner who lost his USCG license
The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that an employer has not discriminated against an employee within the meaning of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) when the employer fired a mariner after the Coast Guard revoked his license. In the instant case, plaintiff mariner worked for defendant City of New York as a sludge boat captain. The position required plaintiff to have a valid USCG license as a master. One of the conditions of having a USCG license is the taking and passing of random drug tests. Plaintiff had difficulty passing urine and contended that he suffered from paruresis, also known as shy bladder syndrome. In accordance with USCG regulations, the City gave plaintiff detailed instructions regarding what medical evidence was required in order to avoid having to provide a urine sample. Plaintiff failed to provide the USCG-required medical evidence. Following a formal hearing, the Coast Guard revoked plaintiff’s license as a master. Defendant City then fired the plaintiff. Plaintiff sued the City, contending the he was disabled under the ADA and that the City had failed to reasonably accommodate his disability. Plaintiff prevailed at trial and the City appealed. The appellate court reversed the judgment. It held that the City had reasonably accommodated plaintiff’s condition by providing him with an alternative means of compliance with a federally-mandated requirement. The plaintiff had failed to adopt the alternative means of compliance. Further, the plaintiff was no discharged due to his difficulty in passing urine, but only for his failure to hold a valid USCG master’s license, which was a condition of employment. Kinneary v. City of New York, No. 08-1330-cv (2nd Cir., March 19, 2010)
Court – plaintiff may be compelled to arbitrate claim against foreign insurer
The US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled that a seaman may be compelled to arbitrate his direct action claim against a foreign insurer. In the instant case, plaintiff was injured while serving on a ship that was insured by defendant foreign insurer. Plaintiff won a judgment against the ship owner, but the owner entered into bankruptcy and the judgment was not paid. Plaintiff then brought a direct action against the foreign insurer in state court. The insurer removed the action to federal court and sought an order to compel plaintiff to arbitrate the dispute in accordance with the contract between the insurer and the owner. The federal district court, relying on appellate court precedent, denied the motion. The insurer appealed. After the district court denied the motion, the US Supreme Court, in an unrelated case, ruled that persons who are not directly parties to a contract, but who have sued to obtain a benefit under the contract can be compelled to arbitrate the dispute when the contract contains a relevant arbitration clause, even when the arbitration is required to be conducted in a foreign location. The appellate court in the instant case remanded the matter to determine whether the Supreme Court decision is controlling in this case. Todd v. Steamship Mutual, No. 09-30177 (5th Cir., March 18, 2010).
Court – LHWCA employer failed to overcome presumption
The US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirmed an award of compensation to a shipyard worker. The court ruled that the employer had failed to overcome the presumption in the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) that certain disabilities are presumed to be work-related in the absence of substantial evidence to the contrary. Bath Iron Works v. Fields, No. 08-2235 (1st Cir. March 18, 2010).
EC – use of mobile phones on ships in European waters
The European Commission (EC) issued a press release stating that it adopted new rules to make it easier for passengers and crew on ships in the EU’s territorial waters to make mobile phone calls or send and receive text messages while they are out of range of land-based mobile phone networks. (3/19/10).
UK & Ireland – marine safety information via NAVTEX
The UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) issued a press notice stating that, commencing 1 April, weather information from the UK Met Office for selected inshore waters will be broadcast from the Irish NAVTEX site at Malin Head. (3/19/10).
Vernal equinox – March 20, 2010
For those of you who might have missed it, the Vernal Equinox occurred at 1732 UTC on Saturday, March 20, 2010. The equinox notes the moment when the celestial equator collides with the ecliptic. The collision produces a high-frequency sound, heard only by sun dogs. The phenomenon was first discovered by Vern, in whose honor it is named.
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 – March 2010