U.S. Supreme Court Grants Petition for Certiorari in Oil Spill Case in which ILTA Filed Amicus Brief Requesting That Certiorari Be Granted

On April 22, 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) granted certiorari in a case involving over $143 million in oil spill cleanup costs incurred when a submerged anchor pierced a tanker as it approached a New Jersey refinery. The Supreme Court will address a split among the federal circuits over the applicable standard of care terminal owners assume regarding vessel operators’ ability to safely unload cargo when entering into charter party agreements (a form of maritime contract involving the marine transport of  goods) containing what are known as “safe berth” clauses.

The decision to take up the case follows the filing of an amicus brief in favor of the petition for certiorari that GKG Law submitted on behalf of the American Fuels & Petrochemical Manufacturers Association (AFPMA) and the International Liquid Terminals Association (ILTA). AFPMA and ILTA have members who are stakeholders in the maritime transportation, storage and oil refining, and petrochemical industries. The primary issue raised in the petition, and in GKG’s amicus brief, was the Third Circuit’s decision in Frescati v. CARCO holding a charterer (or shipper) strictly liable for damages arising under a charter party agreement.  The Supreme Court’s decision on the merits should resolve a split among the circuits as to how to interpret safe berth clauses in charter agreements. 

More information on this matter and the ILTA amicus brief can be found here.