From the Chairs - Maritime and Transport Law Committee newsletter article, July 2020
Richard V. Singleton
Blank Rome, New York, USA
Godofredo Mendes Vianna
Kincaid, Rio de Janeiro, Brasil
We hope this message finds you, your families, and all those close to you safe and healthy. You are all very important to us, and we sincerely wish you the best in these difficult times.
In Brazil and New York we are entering the fourth month of lockdown, stay at home, and social distancing measures. Our offices – both Blank Rome and Kincaid - have been closed since 16 March. Godo and I are both working from home and, surprisingly, so far business remains relatively steady. We hope the same is true for all of you. Brazil is becoming more challenging with an increasing number of cases. In New York, which has been very hard-hit, we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Businesses are beginning to re-open, although not yet fully, and social distancing and other precautionary measures will remain in place for a while.
We look back to Seoul, which seems like years ago now, with fond memories of us all together doing things that now seem so foreign: hugs, handshakes, sitting together in restaurants and late night drinks crowded around small cocktail tables. Remember the fantastic views from the restaurant where we had lunch during the Committee excursion? And our Korean BBQ Committee dinner, with those little bottles of soju and the instruction from our Korean hosts in local custom. Our Committee has always been close and Seoul was no exception. Let’s all keep these great memories fresh in our minds until we can meet again.
Due to the pandemic, the IBA has canceled all conferences from February on, and as you may have heard, the annual conference in Miami has been postponed to 2022. The IBA annual meeting in 2021 will be in Paris. Hopefully, we will all be together then. Our Committee had been planning a joint conference with AIJA in Valencia to occur this year that also has been canceled.
In place of the actual Miami conference, the IBA is planning a ‘virtual conference’ that will occur during the entire month of November 2020. Our Committee will be presenting the same sessions that were to be presented in Miami. We understand some of the sessions will be pre-recorded and some will be live via Zoom or another virtual platform. The IBA will send more on this virtual conference soon. In connection with this virtual conference, our Committee also plans to hold a Zoom committee business meeting. We are working on the logistics of this and IBA will send an announcement about this and invitation in the next month or so. Please make every effort to participate as it is more important than ever for us to stay in touch.
The IBA also decided that at least for now Committee newsletters will be available to everyone, including non-IBA members, worldwide. Our Newsletter therefore will have a much wider audience than usual. We encourage all to submit articles for the next edition to take advantage of this enhanced exposure.
Now let us bring you up-to-date on some Committee News and developments. Our membership officer, Olympio, is receiving reports from the IBA of new members who have joined our Committee, and he has been in touch with them to welcome them to the Committee. To our knowledge this is the first time this has been done. Our website officer, Raphael Bruner, is discussing with IBA the possibility of creating a forum or open discussion page that will allow our Committee members to exchange views and ideas. Our Committee group chat on WhatsApp already performs some of this function, and is a great way for our committee members to remain connected. But it would be good to also have a slightly different platform to discuss issues that are more legal or practice-oriented, leaving WhatsApp for the social discussions and other questions of immediate importance, such as inquiries regarding referrals. Stay tuned, as there will be more to come on this concept.
In other news, we have created a new Committee officer position, Committee Diversity and Inclusion Officer. Maria Belem Espinera has graciously agreed to serve in this position. The main goal of this position is to increase the gender and cultural diversity of our Committee and foster the active participation of those members in our Committee activities and conference sessions. In this regard, she will be working closely with the membership and website officers, and with the Committee senior officers in proposing speakers for future conferences.
We also have created a new Committee Advisory Board that will become a permanent part of our Committee and will consist of the Committee’s past seven Chairs/Co-chairs. Several IBA committees have created such Boards. This is a fantastic way to retain and tap the wealth of experience and knowledge that our past chairs have accumulated during their service and use it for the present benefit of the Committee. And in the case of our Committee it simply formalises the informal way we have operated in the past. We have sent invitations to those eligible to serve on the Maritime Committee Advisory Board and hope to announce the names of those who will serve in the near future.
Finally, our committee is planning the next specialist conference for the spring of 2021. The officers have not reached final agreement on the venue but presently are thinking Singapore or Hamburg. A final decision on the venue will be made over the summer, at which time planning will then begin in earnest. As with the last Specialist conference in Oslo, we will be sending, via the IBA, a call for persons interested in speaking. We are very much looking forward to this as it most likely will be the next time we are all together in the flesh as opposed to beams of light on a screen.
That's all for now. Stay safe and well, and we hope to see all of you in in the November Zoom Committee Business meeting and at our specialist conference in 2021 – if not before.
Rich and Godo