Significant Opportunity to Provide Comments Concerning Maritime Regulatory Reform

Jonathan K. Waldron, Matthew J. Thomas, and Emma C. Jones

On May 18, 2018, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (“OIRA”), within the Office of Management and Budget (“OMB”), published a Request for Information (“RFI”) seek­ing public input as to how the federal government may best reduce burdens in the maritime sector. Comments are due on July 16, 2018.

This RFI was spurred by Executive Order 13771, published on January 30, 2017, by President Trump as one of his first initia­tives after taking office, which aims to reduce regulation and control regulatory costs, and Executive Order 13777, published shortly thereafter on February 24, 2017, which aims to enforce the regulatory reform agenda. The RFI seeks public comment to help identify existing rules affecting the maritime sector that are inefficient, redundant, obsolete, unnecessary, or otherwise not justified. Ultimately, OIRA intends to communicate any regulatory reform suggestions to the Regulatory Reform Task Force established for the maritime sector.

For the purposes of this RFI, the maritime sector is broadly defined to include all enterprises related to maritime com­merce, such as shipbuilding, repairing, manning and operating vessels, port facilities, and shipyards, including maritime activ­ities related to resource extraction, renewable energy, cable laying, and marine research.

In order for OIRA to effectively evaluate comments submitted in response to the RFI, it has requested comments based on 15 questions to include (but does not limit to): supporting data or cost information; specific suggestions regarding repeal, replacement, or modification; insight into specific experiences regarding regulatory redundancy, compliance inefficiencies, or outdated requirements; and information regarding challenges for small or medium-sized companies. Importantly, the scope of the RFI includes identifying regulatory programs of two or more agencies that apply to the same sectors in a way that is redundant or conflicting.

This RFI provides an excellent opportunity for the public to potentially have an impact on future regulatory reform under the Trump administration. Indeed, it is extraordinary in its scope, opening the door for virtually any maritime regulatory topic, ranging from environmental and safety standards to liner competition regulation, ports development, coastwise and cit­izenship rules, U.S. flag promotional programs, and more. No other administration has cast such a wide net in examining the maritime regulatory landscape, creating a rare opportunity for all corners of the industry to be heard.

For more information, please read the Federal Register notice. Blank Rome’s attorneys are also ready and available to assist clients with providing comments in response to the RFI.