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, U.S. Coast Guard officer and attorney (JAG), 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, as the primary legal advisor to the federal on-scene coordinator for the Deepwater Horizon Incident Management Team, and as the lead legal advisor to the joint National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB)-USCG major marine casualty investigation and hearing into the allision between the M/V Delta Mariner and Eggners Ferry Bridge.

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 vessel owner on review of fractional ownership for small passenger vessels in novel operational use scenarios
  • Represented a foreign-flag vessel operator on appeal to captain of the port (COTP) order on Crew Control Security Plans (CCSP) due to crewmembers' country of origin
  • Represented a U.S. Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) vessel operator on appeal to USCG COTP Notice of Arrival (NOA) notice requirements due to COVID-19 protocols
  • Defended a 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
  • Represented an international educational institution on whether the U.S. Virgin Islands can establish an international open flag registry under existing legal frameworks
  • Advised an offshore energy company on cybersecurity compliance with USCG and federal regulations
  • Represented an energy provider on regulatory compliance related to lithium-ion carrying uninspected commercial barges
  • Represented 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
  • Represented a charterer in hazardous bulk cargo trade on International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes (IMSBC) code; coordinated carriage waiver
  • Defended merchant mariner in attempted revocation of professional credentials by USCG; resolution allowed for continued employment without suspension of credentials
  • Advised on training to fleet of masters on legal responsibilities, liabilities and operational risk assessment under USCG regulations

  • Represented an automotive industry importer in a U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) fraud investigation in allegations of misclassification of imports and violations of Section 301 tariffs
  • 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 U.S. shipyard on modifications to foreign-built vessels to become a coastwise-qualified vessel for purposes of the Jones Act
  • 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 cruise line trade association on challenging state laws related to onboard COVID-19 protocols and issues or preemption
  • Advised a leading cruise line brand on environmental compliance and recourse options with proposed local ordinances related to spill response obligations
  • Advised a leading cruise line brand on compliance with regulations relating to docking in navigational channels and captain of the port (COTP) directions

  • 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)
  • Advised a consumer goods importer on General Average claims due to ship fire and mitigation options
  • Advised a consumer goods importer on excessive surcharges by Non-Vessel Operating Common Carrier (NVOCC) and litigation strategy for recoupment
  • Advised a port trade association on U.S. Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) legislation and antitrust investigations
  • Represented a vessel charterer on extension and redelivery of vessels under bareboat charter arrangement
  • Represented a ship charterer in United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) arbitration in contested laytime and demurrage dispute; arbitration judge awarded all costs
  • Represented an international energy industry parts supplier in an oil field personal injury case related to gross negligence claims; drafted discovery requests, prepared motions and analyzed use of expert witnesses and venue
  • Advised on 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
  • Represented an international protection and indemnity (P&I) club on claims following death of ship pilot; conducted onboard investigation
  • Represented a vessel owner in Administrative Procedure Act (APA) litigation involving federal agency's arbitrary and capricious determination; district court remanded for determination consistent with the correct legal standards
  • Represented a merchant 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

  • Represented a foreign-flag containership owner on U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) marine casualty investigation following major grounding in U.S. navigable waters
  • 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
  • Represented a ship pilot in marine casualty investigation for negligence claims; drafted motions for trial
  • Advised a shipowner in defense of claims in mass casualty/total loss, subsequent investigation and hearing on root cause
  • Represented 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

  • Advised a cruise line trade association on challenging state laws related to onboard COVID-19 protocols and issues or preemption
  • Advised a leading cruise line brand on environmental compliance and recourse options with proposed local ordinances related to spill response obligations
  • Advised a leading cruise line brand on compliance with regulations relating to docking in navigational channels and captain of the port (COTP) directions

  • Represented a leading U.S. vessel management and owner, logistics services, government, marine energy and energy solutions company with strategy and legal framework for use of vessel autonomy in emerging commercial and government markets
  • Advised an advanced navigation intelligence data provider on U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) regulatory matters on use of advanced autonomy on vessels
  • Advised an autonomous vessel owner on USCG passenger vessel laws and product liability matters
  • Advised a wing-in-ground craft owner/operator on corporate structuring and USCG vessel regulations related to autonomous operations
  • Advised an autonomous unmanned submersible and underwater vehicle company with ensuring compliance with domestic and international law in data collection and ocean mapping services
  • Advised a commercial vessel autonomous technology client on services agreement to conduct on-the-water testing domestically and in Europe
  • Advised vessel owner/operators/naval architect clients on Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS) operation regulatory and insurance matters

  • Advised a foreign government-owned commodity trader in defending allegations of sanctions violations in over $100 million claim
  • Advised a European protection and indemnity (P&I) club on compliance with U.S. sanctions on Venezuela in connection with response to an oil spill in Chinese waters caused by a vessel collision
  • Represented a U.S.-based airline on carriage of passengers and transactions under Russian sanctions
  • Represented a charter airline on wire transfer transactions involving client and Russian joint-stock company (JSC)
  • Advised a European-based fertilizer exporter when shipping on cost and freight (CFR) terms and charters of Russian-flagged vessel
  • Advised a vessel owner on transactions involving sale-leaseback of vessels under Russian sanctions
  • Represented an oil trader on implications on energy and chartering or shipping operations while engaged in business dealings with various Russian-related entities
  • Represented a vessel owner and operator on denial of entry of Russian-flag owned vessels into U.S. ports by U.S. Coast Guard (USCG)
  • Represented a cargo owner on loading cargo from Russian ports and issues related to Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) interpretation of origin and classification of Russian petroleum
  • Advised a media broadcasting company on transactions related to operations in Russia
  • Advised a pharmaceutical company and vaccine developer on export of COVID-19 vaccines from Russia and involvement of Russian financial institutions
  • Advised a charity organization on Export Administration Regulations (EAR) and International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) analysis and licenses for export of military protective gear to Ukraine
  • Advised a voyage charterer on sanctions clause interpretation in charterparty related to Venezuela sanctions
  • 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), EAR, ITAR, compliance and enforcement defense


  • 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
  • U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas
  • Institute of International Economic Law Fellows Program, 2022
  • 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
  • The Legal 500 USA, Transport: Shipping - Litigation and Regulation, 2022
  • Top Author, JD Supra Readers' Choice Awards (Transportation), 2022 
  • Holland & Knight Pro Bono All-Star, 2021
  • 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