Maritime - Environmental


“A regular and excellent service, which clients rely on for practical and well-considered advice.”

Client feedback, Chambers USA

The United States aggressively enforces some of the world’s most stringent marine environmental regulations. Protecting your business and complying with environmental requirements is imperative, yet complex and fraught with uncertainty. Mitigating commercial risks and working with clients to ensure compliance with this regulatory regime is a key part of our practice.

Blank Rome’s maritime and environmental attorneys advise vessel owners and operators, managers, charterers, and shippers on the multiplicity of U.S. federal, state, and local environmental regulations—as well as international conventions—that govern marine transportation. For example, environmental regulations include the proper handling of petroleum products and hazardous materials aboard all types of vessels. And, Blank Rome’s capabilities are far-reaching as its team of skilled attorneys are available to provide services and advice for vessels trading in any port in the United States.

Our firm has unparalleled experience in a full range of services in defending vessel owners, operators, and managers in criminal cases arising under MARPOL Annex I. These cases, commonly known as “oily water separator” cases, have cost the maritime industry hundreds of millions of dollars over the past two decades. Our team has developed a proactive approach to protecting our clients through a system of audits, trainings, and prophylactic measures to reduce the risk of a MARPOL Annex I violation. Further, our team has had success in defending those accused of violating the environmental and criminal laws and in helping them manage the attendant commercial issues.

Through our Maritime Emergency Response Team (“MERT”), we respond immediately to any major environmental incident, casualty, or investigation for our domestic and international clients. We have worked on many of the most significant pollution incidents of the past century and served as onsite criminal and environmental counsel to oil refineries, chemical facilities, and ship owners and operators:

  • Exxon Valdez
  • Deepwater Horizon
  • Julie N oil spill in Maine
  • Amazon Venture oil spill in Georgia 
  • Torrey Canyon oil spill in the UK
  • Bouchard No. 120 oil spill in Massachusetts
  • Ammonia release from a pipeline in Iowa
  • Asphalt release from a barge in Virginia
  • Pesticide release from an ISO tank in South Carolina
  • Incidents and criminal investigations involving oil-water separator issues for tanker, cruise ship, and cargo ship operators
  • Incidents and criminal investigations involving Clean Water Act discharges 

When maritime companies and executives face civil and criminal charges, or regulatory action threatens their companies, our maritime team is uniquely qualified to assist, with former federal prosecutors and defense attorneys who hail from  the U.S. Department of Justice, Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Coast Guard, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and other U.S. federal and state agencies. We know the procedures and unwritten rules governing investigations that benefit clients targeted in civil and criminal proceedings and regulatory enforcement actions. We can provide our industry experience to develop commercially viable solutions for clients. 

How We Can Help

Government Investigations

We represent business entities and individuals that are, or may become, the focus of a government investigation. From routine inspections and pollution investigations and appealing Notices of Violation, to subpoenas and search warrants, to negotiating penalties and aggressive trial defense, as well as MARPOL prosecutions we serve clients in all aspects of enforcement proceedings.

Internal Investigations

Blank Rome Maritime’s team also conducts sensitive corporate internal investigations when misconduct (or allegations of misconduct) arises. We develop and analyze the factual and legal issues and provide creative strategies to protect clients from exposure to criminal and civil liability, including assessing the merits of voluntary disclosures. In high-profile cases, we’re experienced in handling the media issues that can impact business operations.

With government’s increasing use of criminal statutes, we emphasize awareness, compliance programs and training, and early intervention as critical factors in minimizing exposure to criminal prosecution.

Insurance Litigation

On behalf of both underwriters and claimants, including P&I Clubs, we routinely handle litigation—administrative, civil, and criminal—involving pollution, collisions, allisions, cargo claims, and personal injury. 

What Sets Us Apart 

  • With nearly 40 shipping lawyers in New York, Washington, D.C., Houston, and Philadelphia, Blank Rome has the largest and most comprehensive maritime practice in the United States. 
  • Chambers Global 2023 recognized Blank Rome as a global leader in Shipping: Litigation — Global-wide.

    • “Blank Rome has a well-regarded shipping litigation practice, with considerable expertise in dealing with high-profile disputes, as well as maritime arbitration. It is respected both within the USA and internationally for its deep industry knowledge. The law firm offers:

      • Notable expertise in handling a wide range of issues, including casualties, charter party disputes, bankruptcy and environmental matters.

      • Experience acting for a mix of owners, operators, charterers, financial institutions and shipyards.

      • Additional strength advising on shipping issues as they intersect with environmental litigation.” 

    • Sources have said:

      • “One peer described the team as a ‘real quality outfit.’”

      • “A source particularly praised the firm’s skills in handling maritime transactions.”

      • “The firm has a fantastic reputation in the international shipping community.”

  • Chambers USA consistently ranks our Maritime practice group Band 1:

    • 2019–2023: ranked Blank Rome Band 1 for Transportation: Shipping/Maritime: Litigation (New York) – Nationwide, Transportation: Shipping/Maritime: Litigation (Outside New York) – Nationwide, and Transportation: Shipping/Maritime: Regulatory. Sources have said:

      • “It fields one of the most highly regarded regulatory teams in the USA alongside stellar litigation and transactional practices, and is also home to one of the premier governmental affairs groups…The firm has excellent resources to handle large, complex cases with serious consequences.”

      • “Clients value the firm’s ‘amazing array of subject matter experts across multiple disciplines and jurisdictions’”

      • “‘Their service is excellent and they are very responsive.’”

      • “‘They’re absolutely top of the line, no question at all.’”

      • “[T]he team has ‘a lot of very successful and talented lawyers’ and … [a] ‘truly international practice.’”

  • The Legal 500 United States 2024 ranked Blank Rome Top Tier in Transport: Shipping – Litigation and Regulation.
  • Recipient of the Lloyd’s List North American Maritime Legal Services Award 2015 and 2016.
  • 2013 U.S. News & World Report—Best Lawyers (Woodward/White, Inc.): designated “Law Firm of the Year” for Maritime & Admiralty Law.
  • Several of our maritime attorneys lecture at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy’s OPA 90 Qualified Individual Training Program on legal issues related to pollution incidents, and are often asked to serve as arbitrators and expert witnesses in foreign litigation and courts on issues of U.S. maritime law. 
  • Our attorneys include former U.S. Coast Guard and Navy officers, representatives and senior staff from Congressional committees, and high-level officials of government agencies, including the Department of Justice, Maritime Administration, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
  • Among our attorneys, we have a professor of maritime law at the New York University School of Law, an adjunct professor at Drexel University’s School of Law teaching admiralty law, and an adjunct professor at the Stevens Institute of Technology where she teaches Information Security & Law. Additionally we have several authors and editors of leading maritime treatises and textbooks, including Time Charters, Voyage Charters, The International Law of the Shipmaster, Maritime Security Handbook, the chapter “Maritime Cyber Security: The Unavoidable Wave of Change,” in Issues in Maritime Cyber Security and the Benedict on Admiralty volume relating to salvage.

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