BLOGS: Waypoints: The Womble Carlyle Maritime Law Blog

Thursday, August 21, 2014, 12:10 PM

Container Shipping Rise Bodes Well for World Trade

COPENHAGEN, Denmark - The world's largest shipping company and big player on the Charleston waterfront says it is sending more containers around the world, a sign that global trade - and possibly economic growth - is picking up.

A.P. Moller-Maersk, which investors monitor as a bellwether for world trade, on Tuesday lifted its earnings outlook on the back of an increase in freight volumes, a promising development at a time when a major economy like China is slowing and much of Europe remains stagnant.

Read more at the The Post & Courier...

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Friday, February 22, 2013, 1:07 PM

Container Barges in Charleston Harbor to Relieve Truck Traffic on I-526?

The Charleston Post & Courier reports this afternoon that the South Carolina State Ports Authority is examining the feasibility of shipping containers across the harbor from the Wando Welch Marine Terminal, on one side of the harbor, to the intermodal rail facilities, serving CSX and Norfolk Southern railroads, on the other.  These railyards will be an integral part of the new container terminal under construction at the former Navy base in North Charleston. 
“We’d like to consider the idea of an inter-harbor container barge,” SPA President and CEO Jim Newsome told members of North Charleston City Council Tuesday night. “We have to look at creative ways of moving containers within the harbor, and to this ICTF (intermodal container transfer facility).”
It seems that if barges can compete with trucks that move all containers from the Wando Terminal to the railyards today, this inter-harbor service could potentially remove thousands of trucks from I-526 and the Don Holt Bridge every week.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013, 6:51 AM

Can Your Employee Sue You? New Decision from 5th Court of Appeals Continues the Confusion as to Who Is a Jones Act Seaman

The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals decided a case of great importance to companies unsure of whether their workers may be Jones Act seamen, entitled to a jury trial against their employer for injuries sustained on the job, or shore-based workers covered by state workers' compensation regimes, or those hybrid waterfront workers covered by the federal Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act (the “Longshore Act”).
In the case of Grab v. Boh Brothers Constr. Co., No. 11-30606 (5th Cir., Jan. 4, 2013), the court considered the status of two iron workers severely injured during the reconstruction of the I-10 bridge over Lake Pontchartrain in Louisiana and held that they were “seaman” entitled to the protections of the Jones Act, 46 U.S.C. § 30104.

The case is notable because both plaintiffs were land-based iron workers, responsible for erecting steel girders on the bridge. They traveled to and from the job site by crewboat and returned home each night. They were injured one evening when their crewboat allided with a survey tower erected on the lake to assist in the bridge work.

In affirming the courts below (two cases were consolidated from district court decisions), the Fifth Circuit found that the plaintiffs performed their work from the deck of a crane barge, the BIG MAC, as the crane lifted girders up to the bridge. The court further found that the plaintiffs assisted in the “navigation” of the barge, such as it was, as the barge shifted locations beneath the bridge with the assistance of the tugboat.

In reaching its decision, the court cited the U.S. Supreme Court decision of Chandris, Inc. v. Latsis, 515 U.S. 347 (1995), which held that, to be defined as a “seaman,” the worker must contribute to the functioning of the vessel, and second, the worker’s connection to the vessel must be “substantial in terms of both its duration and nature.” The Fifth Circuit held that the BIG MAC was a vessel in navigation, and that the plaintiffs assisted with its mission, i.e., the reconstruction of the bridge. Further, the court held that the plaintiffs' tenure aboard the BIG MAC was contemplated to be substantial in its duration because they were scheduled to work aboard the barge for the duration of the job.

It should be noted that this holding is consistent with other Fifth Circuit decisions but is completely at odds with the cases out of the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals which persuasively distinguish these workers from “seamen” entitled to the protections of the Jones Act. See, e.g., Cabral v. Healy Tibbits Builders, 128 F.3d 1289, 1293 (9th Cir. 1997); Gipson v. Kajima Eng'g & Constr., Inc., 1999 U.S. App. LEXIS 5378 (9th Cir. 1999); Heise v. Fishing Co. of Alaska, Inc., 79 F.3d 903 (9th Cir. 1996). The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, which embraces the coastal states from Maryland to South Carolina, is without an opinion on point. Accordingly, depending on where the job is, the barge-based construction worker might a “seaman” with a lawsuit or he might be construction worker with none.

Monday, December 31, 2012, 7:06 AM

Labor Contract Extended 30 Days in Port of Charleston Dispute

Update - December 28, 2012: The International Longshoremen's Association and the U.S. Maritime Alliance have now agreed to extend their labor contract for 30 days so that negotiations may continue.


After the latest breakdown in labor negotiations, ports along the U.S. East and Gulf coasts, including Charleston, are threatened with a strike by the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA).
The ILA and the U.S. Maritime Alliance (USMX), which represents cargo carriers, ports and other employers, have thus far failed to reach agreement on various issues, including the freezing and eventual phasing out of “container royalties.” Container royalties are assessments on individual containers moving in and out of ports, the proceeds of which are divided among eligible union members.

USMX reportedly agreed to a short extension of the existing labor contract, but the ILA refused the extension and voted to strike. Unless some reconciliation is reached, the strike will begin at 12:01 a.m. on December 29, 2012. The effect of the strike will be to shut down container traffic through the affected ports, although it is unclear whether bulk, breakbulk, automobile and cruise ship activity will be affected.

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