Coast Guard Rear Adm. Wayne Arguin To Keynote At 39th GNOBFA Seminar

Hundreds of maritime attorneys, insurance brokers, barge company CEOs, distinguished Coast Guard and Corps of Engineers officials and other maritime personnel will converge on New Orleans April 26–28 to attend one of the oldest and most-respected seminars in the country focusing on maritime legal issues—the Greater New Orleans Barge Fleeting Association’s 39th annual River and Marine Industry Seminar.

The keynote speaker will be Coast Guard Rear Adm. Wayne R. Arguin Jr., from Washington, D.C., who has appeared at previous GNOBFA events. Arguin serves as the assistant commandant for prevention policy, and he is responsible for the development of national policy, standards and programs promoting marine safety, security and environmental stewardship.

Apart from a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 lockdowns, the seminar has operated each year since its founding in in 1982 by maritime attorney Maurice Hebert Jr. and a group of seven friends and associates.

The setting remains the InterContinental Hotel in New Orleans, which has had a continuous relationship with the seminar since its founding. Hebert will be present as this year’s moderator emeritus. His son, Marc Hebert, a partner in Jones Walker, is the incoming seminar moderator. The seminar co-directors are Alan J. Savoie, consultant to The Cooper Group of Companies, and Thomas G. Grantham, a general manager at Ingram Barge Company in Port Allen, La. Karl C. Gonzales of Plimsoll Marine, president of GNOBFA, will deliver opening remarks.

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The event is not just for attorneys; one attendee has called it the “Super Bowl of marine insurance.” Attendees get continuing-education credits for their respective disciplines, and attendance and reporting policies have always been strict. Attendees have consistently rated the seminar format highly, with audience participation encouraged because GNOFBA’s River and Marine Industry Seminar is a true “nuts and bolts” seminar in which attendees will hear from experts in their field from different areas of the marine industry. 

The first session will go over various legal terms specific to maritime law that can often baffle those outside the discipline, including attorneys in other areas of law. Speakers will review who is considered a “seaman, “longshoreman” and “non-seaman” under the Jones Act; the meaning of the scary-sounding “joint and several liability”; what a “savings to suitors clause” is and the intricacies of “all risk” maritime insurance and P&I clubs. This panel will feature Judge Andrew Edison, U.S. Magistrate Judge, Southern District of Texas, Galveston, and Jimmy Mercante, a pilot and well-respected defense lawyer from New York, and they also will give an update on legal developments in the Gulf Coast and East Coast. 

The next several panels will use a hypothetical case to examine everything from insurance coverage to how charter agreements work and managing the personal injury claim along with maintenance and cure.

Managing the challenges of personal-injury lawsuits that include a claim of pre-existing injury is a topic that recurs again and again at GNOBFA sessions, and the panelists will look at the issue from all angles and both the plaintiff and defense perspectives. Another panel will examine insurance needs to cover the various risks of claims for personal injury, discrimination, etc.   

The first April 27 panel will cover issues arising under several related rules for ethics and professionalism, moderated again by Judge Kurt Engelhardt of the United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, joined by both state and federal court judges and in-house counsel.

The next panel, including Arguin and Mike Ellis, CEO of American Commercial Barge Line, will take a broad look at legal and regulatory issues facing the brown-water industry.

Most GNOBFA seminars include at least one panel on medical issues, and this year is no exception. This year’s panel will feature a cardiologist speaking about “long COVID” issues from a cardiovascular perspective, and a hand surgeon. The day will round out with a panel on third-party barge chartering issues.

April 28’s morning panel will look at Coast Guard investigations of pollution claims, including what other parties might be involved. Panelists include Capt. Jason Neubauer, chief of the Coast Guard’s Office of Investigations and Casualty Analysis, and Capt. Gregory Callaghan, deputy sector commander in New Orleans.