We share with you the general introduction to the law and practice of maritime transport in the USA written by HFW – Alejandro Méndez, Chris Hart, James Brown, Melanie Fridgant, Michael Wray, Svetlana Sumina y Thomas Nork en Lexology.com.
Business overview of the shipping industry
The United States has a diverse maritime landscape that encompasses the Arctic, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans; the Gulf of Mexico; the Great Lakes; and thousands of canals, rivers and bays that make up its interior waterways. These vast bodies of water have made the US water transportation industry a major player in international trade.
The United States is one of the world’s largest trading countries, accounting for a quarter of global imports and exports, including more than 2.2 billion metric tons of cargo. In 2020, the value of total US trade with foreign countries was US$7.7 trillion. Despite this volume of international trade, the US-flagged merchant fleet (ocean vessels over 1,000 gross tons) comprises only 181 vessels, 100 of which are Jones Act-eligible vessels benefiting from the laws that protect the participation of US citizens in national commerce. .
The expansion of liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports is expected to further increase activity at US ports. LNG exports are forecast to average 11.35 billion cubic feet per day in 2022 and 12.13 billion cubic feet per day in 2023.
The US shipbuilding industry has remained constant for the past 30 years. US shipyards have built more than 1,600 ships a year on average since 1987, from military vessels to small barges. The Biden Administration has announced an ambitious clean energy plan with many states adopting green energy plans. Developments in the US offshore wind industry are forecast to increase demand for Jones Act-eligible vessels, which may boost the shipbuilding industry. For example, in 2021, the first Jones Act-compliant wind turbine installation vessel was being built at a Texas shipyard.
Overview of the legislative framework
Admiralty and maritime law is one of the oldest sources of American common law. The Constitution extends the jurisdiction of the admiralty to the federal courts and provides that Congress may pass legislation in this field. There are four main sources of admiralty law: general maritime law, federal statutes, international agreements, and state law when not superseded.
The main source of maritime law is the general maritime law dictated by judges. This is a body of principles, rules, customs, and concepts that have been developed over time by the federal courts. In addition to the federal judiciary, Congress can exercise its constitutional powers to enact legislation governing maritime issues such as death on the high seas, seafarers’ rights, and workers’ compensation. These enactments often preempt general maritime law and the courts will conform to the will of Congress in these areas.
The United States is a party to several major international conventions, such as:
the International Regulations to Prevent Collisions at Sea 1972 (COLREGs);
the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea of 1974 (SOLAS);
the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships of 1973 (MARPOL);
the International Convention on Load Lines 1966 (the Load Lines Convention); Y
the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping for Seafarers 1995 (the STCW Convention).
There is a large body of federal law that governs maritime activities. Laws such as the Transportation of Goods by Sea Act (COGSA), the Jones Act, the Shipowners’ Liability Limitation Act, the Oil Pollution Act, and the Clean Water Act cover a wide area of maritime activity. Federal regulators such as the US Coast Guard (USCG), Customs and Border Protection, and the Federal Maritime Commission have important roles in regulating maritime trade.
Federal maritime law strives for uniformity given its unique setting. However, when there is no prevailing federal rule over an area, maritime courts often apply state law. For example, marine insurance is governed by state law. In some cases, activities that appear to be maritime in nature, such as shipbuilding, are in fact governed by state law.
The legal and customary law framework affecting maritime trade is a composite mix of international conventions, federal law, case law, and, to a lesser extent, state law. However, the bulk of the body of law affecting maritime activities remains federal statutory law and general maritime law.
Source: lexology.com por HFW – Alejandro Méndez, Chris Hart, James Brown, Melanie Fridgant, Michael Wray, Svetlana Sumina y Thomas Nork