MAINBRACE: December 2020

Note from the Editor

Thomas H. Belknap, Jr.

COVID, COVID, COVID … Sometimes it feels like that is all anyone is talking about these days (especially now that the election is behind us). So, in this issue of Mainbrace, we (mostly) take a break from that topic and try to focus on some other things.

Use of new technology in the maritime industry is one subject that always interests us, and there is no shortage of pertinent topics in this space. In this issue, we present articles discussing the legal and practical issues relating to the use of facial recognition technology on cruise ships, developments in the use of blockchain in global logistics arrangements, and new regulatory developments relating to electronic recordkeeping onboard vessels.

Meanwhile, as the 116th Congress moves towards its close at the end of the year, we take a look at pending maritime-related legislation and make a few guesses as to what we might expect from the 117th Congress, which convenes in January 2021. Of particular interest to the budding offshore wind industry is a separate article looking at recent developments on proposed legislation to clarify the application of the Jones Act to offshore wind development. We also look at ongoing efforts to pass legislation to tackle the serious and expanding problem of plastics in the oceans, as well as provide an update on regulatory developments relating to the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act.

The year 2020 has become a punchline of sorts for all the things that can go wrong. There’s no question that it has been a year like no other in memory, and I am sure many of us are ready to turn a new leaf in 2021. With disruption comes opportunity, however, and it is not so difficult to envision the many ways that the hurdles of this year will jumpstart innovation and progress in the coming years. Indeed, it seems clear that we are already heading down this path.

So, let this be our New Year’s wish to all our clients and friends: may you stay ahead of the curve and figure out how to turn problems into solutions. We look forward to being there to help you do just that in 2021 and beyond. Happy Holidays to all.

Thomas H. Belknap, Jr., Editor


Maritime Legislative Update
By Jonathan K. Waldron, Joan M. Bondareff, and Stefanos N. Roulakis

The end of 2020 has seen significant developments in legislation with implications for the maritime industry as we move from the Trump administration to the new Biden administration. This article provides an update on the status of several key maritime-related bills in the 116th Congress as of November 19, 2020. Read More »

The Impact of COVID-19 on Blockchain Advancement
By Keith B. Letourneau and Vanessa DiDomenico

Blockchain technology ensures security and transparency within transactions. The endless possibilities and solutions that blockchain can provide to a multitude of industries and consumers created a surge of interest over the past several years. Read More »

New Legislation to Apply the Jones Act to Offshore Renewables
By Jonathan K. Waldron and Stefanos N. Roulakis

The House of Representatives passed legislation, H.R. 4447, the Expanding Access to Sustainable Energy Act of 2019, on September 24, 2020, that included a provision from Representatives Garamendi and Lowenthal to amend the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act that would confirm the Jones Act applies to all offshore energy development on the Outer Continental Shelf, including wind energy. Read More »

EPA Publishes Its Long-Anticipated VIDA Proposed Rule
By Jeanne M. Grasso and Dana S. Merkel

On October 26, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA") formally published in the Federal Register its long-anticipated standards for discharges incidental to the normal operation of vessels pursuant to the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act ("VIDA"). Read More »

Cruise Industry Compliance Tips: Enhancing the Traveler Experience with Facial Recognition
By Jeffrey N. Rosenthal, David J. Oberly, Jeanne M. Grasso, and Douglas J. Shoemaker

In the past few years, the commercial use of facial recognition technology has advanced at an explosive rate, expanding into numerous industries and trades. For instance, facial biometrics is increasingly relied on by airlines and airports across the globe; a similar trend is starting to take hold in the maritime industry, particularly in the cruise sector. Read More »

MARPOL Electronic Recordkeeping—Finally a Reality
By Jeanne M. Grasso and Dana S. Merkel

Long-awaited amendments to the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (“MARPOL”) entered into force on October 1, 2020, which expressly permit the use of electronic record books for certain MARPOL-required logs. Read More »

Marine Plastic Pollution
By Joan M. Bondareff and Dana S. Merkel

As the inveterate pundit Pogo once said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” This could very well be said for our disposable society, which uses and disposes tons of plastic in ways that are not wise and negatively impact the health of our oceans and sea life within. Read More »


Blank Rome Maritime Ranked Top Tier in U.S. News – Best Lawyers® 2021 

Blank Rome Maritime was ranked tier one for Admiralty & Maritime Law both nationally and regionally in the 2021 “Best Law Firms” survey by U.S. News & World Report – Best Lawyers.® The Firm was notably ranked in 29 practice areas and regionally ranked in 79 practice areas in this year’s survey. Read More »

Blank Rome Pro Bono Report (2019‒2020)

Welcome to Blank Rome’s Pro Bono Report (2019‒2020), which highlights various pro bono cases, clinics, and projects that our attorneys worked on last year and in recent months to provide equal access to justice in our communities. Read More »

Blank Rome Launches Biometric Privacy Team

We are pleased to announce the formal launch of Blank Rome’s Biometric Privacy Team, composed of multidisciplinary attorneys from across our Firm’s offices. This dedicated team draws talent from our Cybersecurity & Data Privacy, Privacy Class Action Defense, Artificial Intelligence Technology, and Labor & Employment groups to help clients address and minimize the risks associated with biometric privacy regulatory compliance, enforcement, and litigation. Read More »

Severe Weather Emergency Recovery Team (“SWERT”)

SWERT is an interdisciplinary group of Blank Rome attorneys and government relations professionals with decades of experience helping companies and individuals recover from severe weather events, including recent hurricanes, wildfires, and mudslides across the United States. We are ready to assist those in the path of storms and other severe weather events. Read More »

Coronavirus (“COVID-19”) Task Force

The outbreak of the novel coronavirus is impacting businesses and public life around the world. From supply chain disruption, government-ordered closures, and event cancellations to employee safety concerns and social distancing recommendations, every company is facing its own unique challenges in the face of the uncertainties surrounding this global pandemic. Blank Rome’s Coronavirus (“COVID-19”) Task Force is monitoring this ever-changing situation and is here to help.

Safe Passage Blog

We invite our readers to dive into our archive of Mainbrace newsletters and maritime development advisories, as well as keep abeam with all of our current and upcoming analyses on trending maritime topics and legislation, in our Safe Passage blog. Read More »

Blank Rome’s Maritime Industry Team

Our maritime industry team is composed of practice-focused subcommittees from across many of our Firm’s offices, with attorneys who have extensive capabilities and experience in the maritime industry and beyond, effectively complementing Blank Rome Maritime’s client cases and transactions. Read More »

© 2020 Blank Rome LLP. All rights reserved. Please contact Blank Rome for permission to reprint. Notice: The purpose of this update is to identify select developments that may be of interest to readers. The information contained herein is abridged and summarized from various sources, the accuracy and completeness of which cannot be assured. This update should not be construed as legal advice or opinion, and is not a substitute for the advice of counsel.