Oceanic environments are simply a thing of utter beauty. From crystal blue waters to a plethora of species co-existing under the waves, there’s nothing quite like these ecosystems. However, these aquatic environments, from bays to rivers, are delicate, and face damage brought on by human involvement. That’s where maritime law comes into play to make sure that these pristine settings are not jeopardized.
What is maritime law?
Maritime law, also known as admiralty law, deals with any legal issues involving navigable waters. It also covers certain activities that happen on land if they’re maritime in nature. Maritime laws, such as the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA), are also in place to assure safety for workers employed in maritime-related endeavors. This will protect workers from losing money because of medical expenses and lost wages.
Pepper & Odom, a top maritime attorney in Alabama and Mississippi, also puts the spotlight on boating accidents and the damage that can be done to the environment because of these cases. The maritime industry, from rigs to cruise ships, can have a range of negative effects on these waters. This can include pollution from ships, such as oil spills, or the construction of sea-based wind farms. Admiralty law holds the parties responsible for damage liable through their insurance companies or through the businesses themselves.
The Jones Act
There are several pieces of legislation that highlight major facets of maritime law, one of them being the Jones Act. The Jones Act is a federal law regulating maritime commerce in the U.S., requiring goods shipped between ports to be transported on ships with a vessel owner who is an American citizen. The Jones Act provides sailors with additional rights as crew members, including the ability to seek damages from the crew, captain, or ship owner in the case of injury or wrongful death. This holds owners accountable for professional liability in the event of significant injuries or any manmade disasters.
The Jones Act raises the cost of waterborne transportation with strict guidelines on shipping within national waters. This in turn encourages the use of alternative forms of transport, with a greater push by environmentalists to pursue green efforts among those alternatives. That includes electric trucks and rails, as well as route changes that limit the presence of an array of rigs on the water. In some jurisdictions, attorneys have pushed for reform of the Jones Act to pursue more energy-efficient technology. This not only limits dangerous emissions or pollution but also passes along savings to consumers who are purchasing products being shipped under the Jones Act.
Recent Legal Developments
From the Gulf coast to the Pacific and the Atlantic to the Mississippi River, changes to maritime infrastructure have been discussed under President Joe Biden. The Biden administration‘s proposal includes a request to Congress for an additional $17 billion in American inland waterways, coastal ports, land ports of entry, and ferries. The request did include a Healthy Ports program, designed in conjunction with environmental experts and maritime law experts. This is a program that seeks to mitigate the impact of air pollution on neighborhoods located near ports.
Away from the negotiations regarding infrastructure, the Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration announced $230 million in grants being made available to states and port authorities to strengthen and modernize the nation’s ports. Admiralty attorneys under Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg are working to focus on the development of offshore wind energy programs. This plan will undergo an environmental review to assess the potential impact of such programs in the Gulf region. The environment has been a key focus of the Biden administration, starting with the reentry into the Paris Climate Accord.