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Wednesday, October 17, 2018


The International Association of Independent Tanker Owners (“INTERTANKO”) welcomes recent actions by the State of Washington to repeal 11 state regulations governing tank vessel activity in that State.

The 11 regulations slated for repeal by the State were the remnants of the State’s unsuccessful attempts to regulate tank vessel traffic that had been challenged by INTERTANKO in a unanimous decision of the Supreme Court of the United States in March of this year.

The Supreme Court found that INTERTANKO had correctly argued that the field of tank vessel design, construction, alteration, repair, operation, equipment, personnel qualification and manning was the exclusive preserve of the Federal Government of the United States and could not support any intrusions by state or local governments.

In reaching this conclusion, the Supreme Court invalidated outright four of the State of Washington’s tank vessel regulations, but remanded to the lower federal courts 11 other regulations with instructions to consider those regulations in light of the Supreme Court’s rationale in the INTERTANKO decision.

Dagfinn Lunde, the Managing Director of the Oslo-based trade association, stated that “in the immediate aftermath of INTERTANKO’s victory in the Supreme Court, it was not clear that the State of Washington had understood the message that the Court had conveyed against local intrusion into the federal and international regulatory scheme.  This action by the State Department of Ecology on the eve of scheduled federal court proceedings is most welcome and indicates that the State appreciates the incompatibility of its remaining regulations with the constitutional principals enunciated by the Supreme Court.”

The notice of intent to repeal all remaining State regulations came within a few days of the filing of briefs by INTERTANKO and U.S. Government attorneys at the direction of the Ninth Circuit of Appeals in San Francisco.  That Court had scheduled oral argument on the remaining regulations for 19 July 2000.  INTERTANKO’s attorney in the United States, Jonathan Benner, commented that “the looming reality of court of appeals review appears to have stimulated the State to make a realistic assessment of its chances of success in defending remaining rules.  By issuing its notice of intent to repeal the regulations, the State avoids a high risk of continuing defeat and frees itself to concentrate its efforts in those limited areas where it can make a positive contribution to marine safety and environmental protection distinct from the role of the U.S. Federal Government.”

The State’s action in issuing its intention to repeal tanker regulation was accompanied by statements from State officials indicating that the State of Washington would re-examine its role in promoting vessel safety.  State administrative procedures contemplate that, after allowing time for public comment, the State can remove the controversial regulations from State law books and entertain suggestions on measures that comply with the Supreme Court teachings in the INTERTANKO v. Locke litigation.  Mr. Lunde said, “INTERTANKO has no doubts that state and local jurisdictions in the United States and elsewhere can make valuable contributions to advancing marine environmental protection.  What INTERTANKO has insisted upon, and now has obtained clear support from the highest judicial authorities in the United States, is that such contributions not duplicate or depart from or undermine judgments made by federal and international bodies.  INTERTANKO will be more than happy to work with the State of Washington and other jurisdictions to ensure that future actions do not again place at risk the considerable progress that has been name in tank vessel safety and environmental protection over the past decade.”

INTERTANKO’s General Counsel Mr. Svein Ringbakken said “In its defence of uniformity in regulation of shipping INTERTANKO has consistently argued that it is the Federal government who participates in the IMO who should regulate shipping in the US and not individual States. In its legal argument INTERTANKO has relied on the US constitution and the pre-emptive nature of Federal regulation in the regulation of maritime matters, which does not only make sense but now also is good law”.

For further information please contact:

Svein Ringbakken
Jonathan Benner