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

Mr. Pribyl has more than 25 years of combined experience in the transportation sector as a commercial marine operator, federal regulator, international maritime and trade attorney, active duty military attorney, federal prosecutor, and international protection and indemnity (P&I) club marine insurer.

Mr. Pribyl has significant experience with helping maritime clients in various civil and criminal matters involving government enforcement and regulatory compliance, including matters involving the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), California State Lands Commission and others.

In addition, Mr. Pribyl has experience with matters involving maritime environmental compliance with ballast water and air emissions regulations and also counsels clients on risk mitigation strategies related to domestic and international pollution incidents under the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL), the Clean Water Act (CWA) and the United Nations' International Maritime Organization (IMO) 2020 low-sulfur fuel rules. He also handles matters related to vessel/facility operations, marine casualty and collision cases, maritime security and vessel limitation of liability actions.

Mr. Pribyl also advises on projects related to onshore and offshore energy and infrastructure, fisheries industry compliance issues, Jones Act coastwise trade, citizenship and crewing issues, including outer continental shelf exemptions and U.S. build/rebuild standards, exemptions and waivers.

Mr. Pribyl is an internationally recognized thought leader on Shipping 4.0 and assists clients on the use of autonomous vessels and novel technologies in the maritime sector, including small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS). In this regard, he advises on administrative and legislative solutions for compliance challenges, handles legislative and regulatory affairs, and defends administrative, civil and criminal enforcement actions. While serving as an attorney with the USCG, he liaised directly with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as an interagency partner in the development of the sUAS Regulations (Part 107).

Prior to joining Holland & Knight, Mr. Pribyl worked as a claims executive and lawyer in Arendal, Norway, at the global headquarters of the world's largest P&I Club. In that role, he directly advised and defended ship owners and vessel charterers on disputes and litigation arising from a wide range of marine and charter party disputes involving off-specification bunkers, dry/wet cargo claims, damage to hull, stevedore damage, ship pollution, unsafe ports, property damage, off-hire, freight, general average, liquefied natural gas (LNG) matters, commingled or blended cargo, demurrage, hull-fouling, Hague-Visby Rules, the Carriage of Goods by Sea Act (COGSA), sales/purchase contracts, International Commercial Terms (Incoterms), alternate fuels and zero emission concepts and solutions, war risks, sanctions risk, salvage and complex U.S. litigation. He also served as a legal advisor on their global Autonomous Ships Workgroup and IMO Sulphur Cap 2020 Workgroup, and coordinated with their internal Sustainability Workgroup toward the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals. Prior to that, he practiced law at an international law firm in its Washington, D.C. office.

Before entering private practice, Mr. Pribyl served for six years as a USCG officer and attorney, where he served as an attorney-adviser in legal and policy matters related to international and maritime law, major marine casualties, regulatory compliance, environmental crimes and unmanned aircraft and vessels. He also gained criminal litigation experience as a prosecutor and defense counsel in several cases, including complex prosecutions while detailed in various matters as a Special U.S. Attorney and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). He also served as legal counsel to the Federal On-Scene Coordinator in response to the Deepwater Horizon spill and as the primary legal advisor to the formal major marine casualty investigation into the allision of the M/V Delta Mariner and Eggner's Ferry Bridge.

Prior to law school, Mr. Pribyl worked for eight years as a licensed deck officer aboard U.S.- or Marshall Island-flagged offshore supply vessels, container ships, roll-on/roll-off ships, break bulk vessels and fiber-optic cable ships. He also served for 12 years as a Naval Reserve Officer in the Strategic Sealift Command (Merchant Marine Ready Reserve Group) and specialized in sealift, logistics and port security matters.

Mr. Pribyl is a widely published author in treatises and publications, as well as a regular speaker at international conferences and seminars on topics related to maritime law and advanced automation in the transportation sector, Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS) and autonomous vessels, and maritime and environmental law issues.

As a military veteran, Mr. Pribyl proudly represents veterans in claims related to service-connected disabilities before the Board of Veterans' Appeals. He also volunteers significant time in matters involving defense of merchant mariners' credentials in USCG Suspension and Revocation proceedings.

Representative Experience

  • Won contested United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) arbitration in laytime and demurrage dispute; awarded all costs
  • 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 commercial vessel autonomous technology client on services agreement to conduct on-the-water testing domestically and in Europe
  • Defended international energy industry parts supplier in oil field personal injury case related to gross negligence claims
  • Advised dock owner in collision case alleging negligence against vessel
  • Represented ship pilot in marine casualty investigation involving negligence claims
  • Counseled vessel owner/operator on regulatory compliance matters related to unmanned vessel operations
  • Defended vessel owners/operators (cruise ships, cargo vessels, fishing vessels) regarding allegations of environmental and recordkeeping violations in criminal and administrative cases
  • Advised energy exploration company in administrative challenge to federal agency Jones Act (cabotage) rulings and manning requirements in the offshore sector
  • Defended merchant mariner in attempted revocation of professional credentials by U.S. Coast Guard (USCG); resolution allowed for continued employment without suspension of credentials


  • 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
  • Southeastern Admiralty Law Institute (SEALI)
  • National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) Marine Board, 2018-Present
    • Sub-committees: Cyber in the Marine Transportation System; Autonomous Ships, Vehicles, and Shipping; Zero Emissions Shipping; Offshore Wind/Energy; Maritime Policy
    • 6th Biennial Marine Transportation System S&T Conference, Planning Committee Member, 2020-Present
    • NASEM ad hoc Committee on U.S. Coast Guard Domain Awareness, Leveraging Unmanned Systems for Coast Guard Missions, 2019-2020
  • Comité Maritime International, MASS International Workgroup, 2018-Present
  • Maritime Law Association of the United States (MLAUS), Proctor in Admiralty
    • Regulation of Vessel Operations, Safety, Security and Navigation: Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships, Chair, April 2021-Present
    • Cybersecurity Committee, 2017-Present
    • Government Counsel, Liaison, 2016-2019
  • American Bar Association (ABA)
    • Tort Trial and Insurance Practice Section (TIPS), Admiralty and Maritime Law Committee (AMLC), Government Relations Initiative, Vice Chair, 2016-2018
    • Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division (GPSolo), Military Lawyers Committee Co-Chair, 2015-2016
  • Unmanned Maritime Systems Advocacy Committee, Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), 2018-Present
  • American Chamber of Commerce Norway, Gard AS Liaison, 2019-2020
  • U.S. Merchant Marine Academy Washington D.C. Alumni Chapter, Secretary, 2016-2018
  • Women's International Shipping & Trading Association (Norway), 2019-Present
  • Propeller Club of Washington, D.C., 2017-Present
  • International Law Society, Washburn University School of Law, President and Founder, 2007-2010
  • Sam A. Crow American Inn of Court, 2009-2010
  • Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Team, 2008-2009
  • Veterans Legal Association of Washburn, 2007-2010
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)
  • Commendation Medal, U.S. Coast Guard
  • Judge Advocate General (JAG) Excellence in Field Regulations, U.S. Coast Guard
  • Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal, U.S. Coast Guard
  • Meritorious Team Award, U.S. Coast Guard
  • Special Operations Service, U.S. Coast Guard


Speaking Engagements