Welcome to Transportation Law Today

Managed by Paul J. Loftus, a partner at Dinsmore & Shohl LLP, Transportation Law Today provides professionals in the rail, transit, inland maritime, and trucking industries with current news and analysis of laws, rulings, and regulatory policies.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

USDOT Shuts Down 26 Bus Operators for Safety Violations

The U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced yesterday that 26 passenger bus operators were shut down as "imminent hazards to public safety." In addition, 10 individual bus company owners, managers, and employees were ordered to cease all passenger operations, so that those individuals cannot attempt to operate as different or newly created motor carriers.

The action targeted three eastern companies that operated a much larger network of bus companies. The federal investigators found all the carriers had multiple safety violations, which included patterns of using drivers without proper commercial licences.

The Agency's press release is attached here. Also, a Washington Post story on the action is attached here as well.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

NTSB Calls on Canadians to Investigate Mid-Air Collision between Aircraft owned by FAA and NTSB Employees

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), in conjunction with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), has taken the unusual step of asking Canada's Transportation Safety Board to lead the investigation into a mid-air collision that occurred in Northern Virginia on May 28, 2012. Canadian authorities were brought in because one plane was owned by a FAA employee, and the other plane was owned by an employer of the NTSB. The FAA employee survived the crash. Two people on the other plane were killed.

The NTSB press release is attached here, and this is a local CBS news report of the accident.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Fourth Circuit Holds Piracy Means an Attack, not Just Seizing a Vessel

Yesterday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, VA, upheld the first piracy convictions in a U.S. Court in nearly 200 years. In U.S. v. Abdi Wali Dire, the Court rejected the arguments by convicted Somali pirates that their life sentences should be overturned because their unsuccessful attack on a U.S. warship did not constitute piracy under the law.

Attached here is a press release about the decision from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Virginia.

The cases arise from the April 1, 2010 attack by a group of Somali Pirates on the USS Nicholas in the Indian Ocean.

The legal issue before the Court was whether the Somalis' failed attack on the USS Nicholas constituted piracy under 18 U.S.C. sec. 1651, which states:

Whoever, on the high seas commits the crime of piracy as defined by the law of
nations, and is afterward brought into or found in the Unites States, shall
be imprisoned for life.

Under cases dating from the original enactment of sec. 1651's predecessor in 1819, piracy had been defined as "robbery upon the sea." United States v. Smith, 18 U.S. (5 Wheat.) 153 (1820). Reasoning that piracy was defined by statute under the "law of nations" the Court looked to two international agreements, the Geneva Convention on the High Seas (1958, ratified by U.S. in 1961), and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS - 1982), which has not been ratified by the U.S. Both conventions define piracy to include "illegal acts of violence."

Ultimately, the Court found that the 1819 definition of piracy, requiring an act of robbery, was inconsistent with the evolution of the law of nations as to piracy since 1819, and that even in 1819, violent acts themselves were considered piracy.

The opinion, by Judge King (of W.Va. I might add) offers an interesting, and detailed history of the treatment of piracy in the U.S., and the international evolution of its prosecution.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Supreme Court Refuses Appeals In Treasure Hunter Cases

As a follow up to my post of September 21, 2011 detailing the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals' decision finding treasure found by Odyssey Marine Exploration was the property of the Spanish Goverment, the U.S. Supreme Court denied appeals from that decision yesterday (see page 12 of linked Order list).

Three separate appeals, or Petitions for Certiorari, for the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the appeals were denied on May 14, 2012. They included appeals by Odyssey Marine, the Government of Peru, and claimed descendants of owners of cargo from the shipwreck.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, it is not always "finders keepers" and possession is not 9/10ths of the law, at least when it comes to the spoils from a sunken warship.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Chesapeake-Built River Boat to Cruise Mississippi & Ohio Rivers

The 280 foot Riverboat Queen of the Mississippi is nearing completion at Chesapeake Shipbuilding in Salisbury, on Maryland's Eastern Shore. As explained in this article by Candus Thomson of the Baltimore Sun, the expected August 4, 2012 maiden voyage of the paddle-boat indicates a revival of inland river cruising on the Mississippi. The operator and builder of the Queen of Mississippi, American Cruise Lines, expects a growth market and has begun construction of another riverboat at its Salisbury shipyard.

In addition to routes on the lower and upper Mississippi, several cruises to Cincinnati and Pittsburgh are scheduled in the Fall of 2012. Various ports of call comprise each trip. For example the Ohio River trips will stop in Point Pleasant, WV, Marietta, OH, and Wheeling, WV among other destinations.