Maritime Regulatory, Government and Security

  • Holland & Knight’s Regulatory, Government and Security Team represents clients in regulatory matters and proceedings before every U.S. federal regulatory agency with jurisdiction over the maritime industry.
  • We have extensive experience in the environmental issues impacting the maritime industry and regularly assist clients in protecting their interests and defending investigations and alleged violations.
  • Our team is well-versed in maritime security and helps clients address risk management and regulatory issues created by modern-day pirates and terrorists.
Police Boats


Government and industry regulations, both in the United States and abroad, impact every aspect of maritime operations. Holland & Knight's Regulatory, Government and Security Team represents shipyards, shipowners, charterers and operators, lenders and leasing companies, component manufacturers, design firms, logistics companies, shippers, forwarders, brokers and other interests in regulatory matters and proceedings before every U.S. federal regulatory agency with jurisdiction over the maritime industry, including the Department of Homeland Security, Coast Guard, Customs, Federal Maritime Commission, Maritime Administration, Environmental Protection Agency and the Departments of Transportation, Treasury, State, Commerce, Defense, Interior and Agriculture. We have the knowledge, experience and background necessary to respond to all of your maritime law needs.

Proactive Counsel

Our team regularly guides clients through U.S. federal, state and local regulatory affairs and international regulatory issues with the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and other regulatory bodies, classification societies and other private industry groups. Our priority is to provide you with proactive counsel, including early warnings regarding various rulemakings, legislation and policy developments to ensure that your concerns are taken into account by regulators and decision-makers on Capitol Hill.

Following are examples of current regulatory matters being handled by our team:

  • obtaining an expedited Treasury Department license for lenders permitting a free-and-clear foreclosure sale of a vessel subject to US Iran sanctions
  • assisting global logistics companies in obtaining major Federal Maritime Commission exemptions from tariff requirements to allow confidential ocean rate agreements with shippers
  • representing a major public electric utility on development of a proposed offshore wind energy project on the Atlantic coast
  • representing ocean carriers in landmark regulatory litigation matters defining the limits of U.S. cabotage and coastwise laws for freight traffic and cruise lines
  • representing a client before the Executive Branch, regulatory agencies and Congress with respect to proposed rule makings by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) concerning the engine emissions of vessels operating exclusively on the Great Lakes and before the U.S. Coast Guard concerning ballast water discharges
  • representing an offshore operator before the Executive Branch and Congress concerning federal maritime law implications on foreign support vessels operating in the Gulf of Mexico/U.S. Outer Continental Shelf (OCS)
  • assisting an electric utility client with global shipments of radioactive material following decommissioning of a nuclear plant
  • advising a client before the Executive Branch and Congress concerning federal maritime law, including U.S. Customs and Border Patrol rulings and proposed revision of interpretation as well as U.S. Coast Guard Manning Exemptions
  • representing a Fortune 100 company with respect to its licensing as a non-vessel operation carrier and freight forwarder in connection with service contracts, licensing, tariffs and all other regulatory matters involving the Federal Maritime Commission, Customs Border Protection, U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)
  • advising cruise lines on regulatory matters involving Federal Maritime Commission policy and rulemaking issues affecting advertising and marketing for the cruise industry
  • providing a leading P&I Club advice regarding the effect on insurance of recent Iran U.S. sanctions legislation
  • advising a large, foreign-based oil tanker owner and operator with U.S. operations on Treasury Department Office of Foreign Asset Control regulations

Oil Spill Drills

Oil spill drills are a critical part of company compliance programs to prevent casualties or, in the event of an incident, to show a pattern of responsibility. Our maritime attorneys actively counsel shipowners and oil companies in both regional and national oil spill drill and emergency response training activities, including those attended by the U.S. Coast Guard, state and local officials and trustee representatives.

Environmental Protection

Understanding and compliance with environmental laws and regulations can be challenging. Our team has extensive experience and can assist you with oil pollution liability, emergency oil spill reporting and response requirements, EPA Vessel General Permits and reporting requirements, prosecution of environmental crimes including MARPOL and APPS violations and ballast water management regulations. In addition, we can help you address oil pollution liabilities arising under international conventions to which the United States is not a party, such as the International Convention for Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage, as well as potential oil pollution liabilities arising from transborder oil spill incidents.

Following are examples of current and recent environmental matters handled by our team:

  • representing a vessel purchaser before the Environmental Protection Agency and the Maritime Administration with respect to the potential presence of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) on a vessel
  • prepared a study for the Canadian Shipping Association of the environmental protection laws applicable to the operation of vessels in U.S. waters, including federal law and state laws for the five states surrounding the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway, the Eastern seaboard and the Gulf of Mexico
  • provided an environmental compliance review of the Offering Memorandum for a vessel owner's prospective bond offering, including an assessment of oil pollution liability under the Clean Water Act (CWA), the Oil Pollution Act (OPA) and relevant state laws; MARPOL requirements; and the status of recent IMO conventions on ballast water management, greenhouse gas regulations, air emission and fuel standards
  • defended a shipowner against civil and criminal charges related to the operation of MARPOL-regulated oil pollution equipment, including the investigation of the incident, expert analysis of oily water separator and negotiations with Coast Guard and the Department of Justice, resulting in the government's decision not to prosecute
  • responded to a federal investigation and grand jury subpoena of a shipowner and a pool operator for MARPOL violations during transit through U.S.

Maritime Security for the 21st Century

Modern-day pirates and terrorists are creating new threats for shipowners and charterers around the world, which, in turn, heightens your need for effective transportation security. Our team has extensive experience in maritime security and can guide you through all aspects relating to intermodal transportation, safety and protection in the homeland security framework. In addition, our maritime attorneys can provide counsel concerning ransom negotiations and dealing with K&R underwriters, new Presidential Executive Order implications, private maritime security forces, and charter party and general average claims and defenses.

Following are examples of current and recent security matters that have been handled by our team:

  • representing maritime private security companies concerning convey protection services, logistics and the applicable laws for such ventures
  • advising a shipowner on all issues related to the Somali pirate hijacking of a VLCC, including compliance with Presidential Executive Order ("Blocking Property of Certain Persons Contributing to the Conflict in Somalia"), disputes arising under relevant charter parties and general average considerations

Global Representation

As a shipowner or charterer, your business operations often require interaction with the U.S. government or the governments of other nations. To increase the likelihood of successfully achieving your business objectives, you need experienced counselors with the right connections and a thorough understanding of U.S. and international maritime law, the process, the ethics and the players involved. Our team has the global knowledge, experience and connections you need, including lawyers practicing in several major shipping and maritime jurisdictions, and regularly advising on laws of many other maritime nations, including Liberian, Marshall Islands and Vanuatu legal opinions.


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