White House Opens Public Comment Period Seeking to Harmonize Shipping Regulations

3 min

On May 17, 2018, the Office of Management and Budget's (OMB's) Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) issued a Federal Register notice requesting public comment on "how best to achieve meaningful burden reduction in the maritime sector." The notice was issued pursuant to the President's broad regulatory reform initiative announced in Executive Order 13771, aimed at "reducing regulation and controlling costs." Maritime stakeholders have until July 16, 2018 to submit comments.

Which regulations are subject to the notice?

OIRA is seeking comments on virtually any agency's regulatory requirements touching the maritime sector, including, but not limited to, the Federal Maritime Commission, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Defense, the Department of Labor, the Department of Commerce, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Council on Environmental Quality, and the Department of the Interior.

Notably, among the regulatory issues OIRA is seeking to address is "how regulations from the [U.S.] might be better coordinated with the regulations and requirements of other countries, especially Canada and Mexico, in shared bodies of water."

Which stakeholders can submit comments?

The notice invites comments from a broad array of stakeholders involved in the maritime sector, including those involved in:

  • Designing, building, acquiring, repairing, or scrapping vessels;
  • Operating, manning, or maintaining vessels, port facilities, or shipyards; and
  • Operating shipping lines, customs brokerage services, shipping and freight forwarding services, or maritime activities related to resource extraction, renewable energy, cable laying, or marine research.

However, the notice indicates that OIRA is particularly "interested in learning more about experiences with regulations involving cargo or passenger vessels."

What issues should a comment address?

The notice provides guidance on what kinds of issues a comment should address. Namely, the notice provides an illustrative list of questions, most of which are aimed at identifying and resolving redundant, overlapping, and/or outdated regulations and requirements. For example, one of the listed questions asks: "[a]re there rules from different agencies that involve similar, overlapping activities such as training, drills, or inspections that might be consolidated or coordinated to reduce the regulatory burden on the industry?" Furthermore, the notice recommends submitting documentation, as appropriate, and suggesting potential solutions to the issue(s) raised in the comment.

Conclusion and Recommendations

This is a crucial opportunity for stakeholders in the maritime sector to raise concerns and offer solutions to the key regulatory challenges faced by the industry. The current Administration has embarked on an ambitious deregulatory agenda and has already made significant regulatory changes in a number of other areas. OIRA's notice suggests that the Administration may now be setting its sights on the maritime sector. The notice is also notable in its coverage of multiple agencies in a sector-specific request, including the Federal Maritime Commission, an independent agency. Maritime stakeholders should identify key regulatory issues and concerns and consider submitting comments by the July 16 deadline.

Venable's International Trade and Logistics Group is happy to assist and advise in preparing comments, including identifying regulatory priorities, and preparing any supporting documentation, as appropriate.