Sean T. Pribyl is a business attorney in Holland & Knight's Washington, D.C., office. Mr. Pribyl's practice focuses on maritime regulatory compliance matters, international law and trade, marine claims, autonomous transportation, civil litigation and dispute resolution, and white collar criminal law.

Mr. Pribyl combines a common sense legal approach with an emphasis on personal relationships with his clients, and brings to bear a significant background with more than 25 years of combined experience as a federal regulator, international maritime and trade attorney, active duty military attorney with the U.S. Coast Guard Judge Advocate General (JAG) office, U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Special U.S. Attorney, merchant mariner deck officer and international protection and indemnity (P&I) club lawyer. With a focus on results, Mr. Pribyl combines the analytical with the practical to offer sound and timely advice on complex compliance matters so that clients can make informed decisions – to avoid potential issues. Mr. Pribyl has also forged a reputation as being an industry thought leader on developing areas of risk and innovation on the horizon to help clients stay "ahead of the game."

Mr. Pribyl has significant experience in working with clients in regulatory, litigation and compliance matters involving maritime and international trade. He leverages his operator and regulator background to help clients navigate complex and shifting regulatory compliance and enforcement landscapes involving the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Military Sealift Command (MSC), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. Department of State (DOS), U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and others.

Prior to joining Holland & Knight, Mr. Pribyl worked as a senior claims executive and lawyer in Arendal, Norway, with the world's largest P&I Club. Previously, he practiced law at an international law firm in Washington, D.C. Before entering private practice, Mr. Pribyl served as an attorney with the USCG and DOJ, and as the primary legal advisor to the federal on-scene coordinator for the Deepwater Horizon Incident Management Team.

Prior to law school, Mr. Pribyl was a licensed ship master and worked for eight years as a licensed deck officer aboard offshore supply, container, roll-on/roll-off, break bulk and fiber-optic cable vessels. He also served for 12 years as a naval reserve officer.

Mr. Pribyl is a widely published author in treatises and publications, as well as a regular speaker at international legal and industry conferences and seminars. As a military veteran, Mr. Pribyl proudly represented veterans before the Board of Veterans' Appeals and volunteers significant time in matters involving defense of merchant mariners' credentials in USCG Suspension and Revocation proceedings.

Representative Experience

  • Advised a shipowner/operator in appeal to U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) related to exemptions for fleet of vessels from Subchapter M compliance and waivers for Certificate of Documentation at National Vessel Documentation Center (NVDC)
  • Counseled a startup autonomous vessel owner on USCG passenger vessel laws and product liability matters
  • Advised a startup advanced navigation intelligence data provider on USCG regulatory matters
  • Counseled a wing-in-ground craft owner/operator on corporate structuring and USCG vessel regulations
  • Defended merchant mariner in attempted revocation of professional credentials by USCG; resolution allowed for continued employment without suspension of credentials
  • Assisted in defense of leading cruise line brand involving USCG allegations of oil pollution violations; conducted underway cruise ship inquiry, collected evidence and led crew interviews; resulted in dismissal of all allegations
  • Advised an offshore vessel operator on guidance regarding USCG regulations for design, construction and equipage for helicopter facilities and regulatory compliance with foreign flag accommodation barge operations
  • Advised a Norwegian classification society on cybersecurity matter and USCG icebreaker acquisition
  • Advised an offshore energy company on cybersecurity compliance with USCG and federal regulations

  • Represented an international battery manufacturer in successfully defending U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) seizure and forfeiture
  • Counseled a railway operator in challenging CBP trade notice with adverse economic impact on rail transportation

  • Advised a foreign shipowner on Jones Act vessel ownership and financing options, and operational contract support (OCS) manning exemptions
  • Advised energy exploration company in administrative challenge to federal agency Jones Act (cabotage) rulings and manning requirements in the offshore sector
  • Advised a shipyard, oil tanker operator and energy company on Jones Act compliance matters and crewing

  • Advised a dock owner in collision case alleging negligence against vessel
  • Assisted an owner/operator in marine casualty collision with U.S. Navy vessel in limitation of liability action
  • Assisted a ship operator in dock allision, maritime attachment (Rule B) and vessel arrest (Rule C) action

  • Advised various vessel owners/operators (cruise ships, cargo vessels, fishing vessels) in criminal and administrative cases involving allegations of environmental crimes, whistleblower claims and recordkeeping violations, including under the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL), Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS), Clean Water Act (CWA) and the United Nations' International Maritime Organization (IMO) 2020 low-sulfur fuel rules
  • Advised a salvage operator on environmental and regulatory matters in complex refloating and lightening operations
  • Counseled international clients on achieving compliance with environmental laws related to U.S. ballast water management regulations under domestic legal framework and international conventions

  • Advised on numerous buyer-side mergers and acquisitions (M&A) and representations and warranties insurance (RWI) matters on international trade compliance and due diligence involving economic sanctions, global export/import controls, anti-boycott/bribery/corruption, customs laws and regulations, Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), Export Administration Regulations (EAR), International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), compliance and enforcement defense
  • Represented a cargo owner in cargo damage Carriage of Goods by Sea Act (COGSA) claim and litigation of liability action involving vessel arrest (Rule C)
  • Represented a foreign government-owned commodity trader in defending allegations of sanctions violations
  • Defended a mariner in successful dismissal of U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD) and U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) demands for reimbursement of more than $230,000 for alleged violations of post-graduate service agreement; negotiated settlement and all monetary claims withdrawn
  • Counseled a shipping trade association on challenging state laws related to onboard COVID-19 protocols
  • Advised a port trade association on U.S. Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) legislation and antitrust investigations
  • Advised an energy provider on regulatory compliance related to lithium-ion carrying uninspected commercial barges
  • Won contested United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) arbitration in laytime and demurrage dispute; awarded all costs
  • Advised commercial vessel autonomous technology client on services agreement to conduct on-the-water testing domestically and in Europe
  • Aided defense of international energy industry parts supplier in oil field personal injury case related to gross negligence claims; drafted discovery requests, prepared motions and analyzed use of expert witnesses and venue
  • Represented ship pilot in marine casualty investigation involving negligence claims
  • Handled numerous contractual disputes (demurrage, detention, force majeure) between charterers and owners, and buyers and sellers of petroleum products under purchase/sales contracts and charterparty contracts
  • Advised an international protection and indemnity (P&I) club on claims following death of ship pilot; conducted onboard investigation
  • Supported defense of claims in mass casualty/total loss, subsequent investigation and hearing on root cause
  • Defended a shipowner and operator in National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) enforcement action for civil penalties due to alleged violations of National Marine Sanctuaries Act (NMSA) and marine sanctuary regulations
  • Counseled owner/operators on compliance with ballast water management and nitrogen oxides (NOx) emission standards under domestic and international legal regimes; guided clients through detention appeals and penalty mitigation
  • Counseled a charterer in hazardous bulk cargo trade on International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes (IMSBC) code; coordinated carriage waiver
  • Assisted on the representation of a pilot in marine casualty investigation for negligence claims; drafted motions for trial
  • Counseled vessel owner/operators/naval architect clients on Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS) operation regulatory and insurance matters
  • Provided training to fleet of masters on legal responsibilities/liabilities and operational risk assessment
  • Assisted successful Administrative Procedure Act (APA) litigation involving federal agency's arbitrary and capricious determination; district court remanded for determination consistent with the correct legal standards


  • United States Naval War College, M.A., National Security and Strategic Studies
  • Washburn University School of Law, J.D., Certificate of Concentration in International and Comparative Law
  • United States Merchant Marine Academy, B.S.
Bar Admissions/Licenses
  • District of Columbia
  • Kansas
Court Admissions
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces
  • U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia
  • World Maritime University-Sasakawa Global Ocean Institute, Senior Advisor, 2021-Present
  • Southeastern Admiralty Law Institute (SEALI), 2021-Present
  • National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) Marine Board, 2018-Present
    • Sub-committees: Zero Emissions Shipping; Offshore Wind/Energy; Maritime Policy; Cyber in the Marine Transportation System; Autonomous Ships, Vehicles, and Shipping
  • Comité Maritime International, MASS International Workgroup, 2018-Present
  • Maritime Law Association of the United States (MLAUS), Proctor in Admiralty; Cybersecurity Committee, 2017-Present; Chair, Regulation of Vessel Operations, Safety, Security and Navigation: Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships, 2021-Present
  • American Bar Association (ABA)
    • Tort Trial and Insurance Practice Section (TIPS), Admiralty and Maritime Law Committee (AMLC), Vice Chair, 2016-2018, 2021-Present
    • Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division (GPSolo), Military Lawyers Committee Co-Chair, 2015-2016
  • Propeller Club of Washington, D.C., 2017-Present
  • American Chamber of Commerce Norway, Gard AS Liaison, 2019-2020
Honors & Awards
  • Outstanding Young Military Lawyer Award, American Bar Association and Judge Advocates Association, 2015
  • Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces National Award, U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ)
  • Judge Advocate General (JAG) Excellence in Field Regulations, U.S. Coast Guard


Speaking Engagements