At some point I noticed that a member of the group started posting really interesting articles.
To my great surprise, this activity was not fleeting and Mr. Collins continues to post very interesting topics even today.
I was very curious to find more about Mr. Collins so I’ve learned that he is a successful lawyer in Seattle USA, managing partner of Helsell Fetterman. The company site informs us that one of Mr. Collins speciality is Admiralty and Maritime Law and He is a Fellow in Litigation Counsel of America and a Proctor in Admiralty for the Maritime Law Association of the United States and he achieved numerous accolades and commendations throughout his long career.
I’ve contacted Mr. Collins and he accepted my invitation for (not so) brief discussion. I’ve learned during this discussion that was some time ago a young professional dreaming to the future, he actively witnessed the transformation of the maritime industry in the United States over the last 30 years and he is passionate about history and especially about maritime archaeology.
I trust that, same as for me, all the above opened your interest for hearing more from Mr. Collins so I’ve invited him to have this interview with Futureoftheocean. Mr. Collins graciously accepted my invitation.
We had a long discussion that spanned the length of his long career, so this interview will be presented to you in several parts, each focusing on a different period of Mr. Collins' career. Let's begin this new guided tour of an amazing career and human story by discussing how a passion for the seas and oceans developed in young Scott and how that passion influenced the student's decisions.
I’ve learned from Helsell Fetterman site that you’ve studied maritime law and law of the sea at University of Washington School of Law. However, could I ask you where the interest or rather the passion for the seas does and oceans come from?
My passion for the sea developed when I was young. My family vacationed at the sea every summer and I developed an interest and curiosity in all things ocean-related from that time. I was the young kid always with a mask and snorkel swimming in the surf to see what I could see – whether it would be an interesting fish or shell and always with the hope that maybe I would find treasure of some sort. I was fascinated by Jacque Cousteau and his underseas adventures and discoveries, as I was with the fiction of Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Herman Melville’s Moby Dick.
When choosing a college, I was torn among multiple fields of study. On some days, I wanted to study oceanography; on others I wanted to attend the U.S. Coast Guard Academy; but on most days, I was drawn to the study of law. I wanted to attend law school after college and I didn’t view an oceanography major or attending the Academy as my most direct path into the law. I ultimately choose a major of political science, naively thinking that was my best path forward into the law.
During my second year of college, I came across a posting for the Program in American Maritime Studies, a one-semester college program through Williams College. The program was a semester of living and studying on the grounds of Mystic Seaport, the largest maritime museum in the United States known for its outstanding collection of sailing ships and boats and for the re-creation of the crafts and fabric of an entire 19th-century seafaring village. The Program offered classes in oceanography, marine biology, literature of the sea, maritime history, and marine policy, together with two weeks at sea aboard a research schooner, along with a variety of hands-on skills and crafts that included boat-building and celestial navigation. That was the perfect broad-based program on the sea that I always wanted and, as a result, I did my college “term abroad” in Mystic, Connecticut during the fall of 1983.
It turns out that 1983 was a great time to study marine policy and the law of the sea. It was right after the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea was adopted in 1982 by many countries around the world (but not the U.S. then under President Ronald Reagan whose administration was adamantly opposed to UNCLOS, particularly the deep seabed mining provisions). The Marine Policy course was taught by Professor Dennis Nixon from the University of Rhode Island School of Marine Affairs. He is a lawyer who is a leading authority on both maritime law and international oceans policy and policy-making. I aspired to be like him, and my interest in international law of the sea was reinforced by a research paper I did for his class on the then-ongoing dispute between the U.S. and Canada over the maritime boundary between the two nations across the Gulf of Maine, including the then very rich fishing grounds and believed rich oil reserves of Georges Bank. My research took to me Boston where I, as a persistent college student (perhaps aided by a word from Professor Nixon), gained access to some highly confidential diplomatic and legal documents and communications on the U.S. side of that dispute that aided my paper in a way that no published writings could.
When I returned to my college after that semester at Mystic Seaport, my focus was entirely on attending law school to focus on maritime law and affairs. That narrowed my choices and, in the end, I was faced with a choice between Tulane University Law School in New Orleans, which has an outstanding admiralty and maritime law program (and offered me a sizable scholarship), and the University of Washington School of Law in Seattle, which had an outstanding advance law degree (LL.M.) program in marine affairs in which law students such as myself could study. I chose the UW and was not disappointed. Two professors at UW Law most influenced my studies, which included the admiralty law course from Professor Dan Henderson, an expert on Asian and Comparative Law. The late Professor William Burke was an international expert on the law of the sea, international fisheries law, and marine mammal protection. From him I studied the Third Convention on the Law of the Sea (“UNCLOS III”) and Oceans Law, with him as my advisor for my law school “thesis” on ownership and salvage rights in the then recently-discovered wreck of the TITANIC. I also did work study for Professor Burke where I researched and assembled the legislative history behind the fisheries provisions ultimately adopted as part of UNCLOS III.
The late Professor Marc Hershman was the second highly influential professor. He was the director of the School of Marine Affairs who taught several courses at the law school, all of which I of course took. He was an expert in ocean policy and coastal zone management. In my last year of law school, I wrote a paper for his class on recently adopted legislation in Washington State addressing ownership and salvage rights in abandoned shipwrecks in state waters that followed closely on the heels of the adoption of the U.S. Abandoned Shipwreck Act of 1987. At Professor Hershman’s urging, I used that paper to write an article on the ASA that was published in Coastal Management, an international peer-reviewed, applied research journal dedicated to exploring issues relating to the use of coastal and ocean resources. The title of my article was “Managing Historic Shipwrecks in the United States,” which was as much about managing historic, submerged resources as it was about the Abandoned Shipwreck Act.
That’s a long-winded answer to your question, but it sets the stage for my professional interest and involvement in maritime law and affairs.
How was your time in the Law School?
What were the dreams of a young graduate of maritime law?
Law school was of course difficult and demanding, as I blended all the “mainstream” courses of contracts, constitutional law, real property, torts, civil procedure, evidence, ethics, taxation, commercial transactions, and administrative law with all the marine affairs courses I could take. I had never been around so many very smart, articulate people – both professors and fellow students – and keeping up with everyone commanded full attention and effort. But from challenge comes growth and my three years at law school – far from my native New England and family – were formative years when I really became who I am as a person. It was as much a time of exploration intellectually and confidence as it was academics and rigor.
To learn from professors like Professors Burke and Hershman was exhilarating. Being around leaders in their fields pushed me to do better, and in many ways, I was driven by a desire to both prove myself in their eyes and to not let them down, as they both invested time and mentorship in me and my development. They were two different men in personality, but each left a long-lasting influence on how I see not just the oceans around us, but the entire world and how we interact in it.
Going into law school, my dream was to graduate and join the U.S. State Department’s team negotiating UNCLOS III. Even though the Reagan Administration publicly rejected UNCLOS, there was still hope that progress could be made to change objectionable provisions in a way that would coax the U.S. to become a party-state. Coming out of law school three years later, it was clear the successor administration of the senior George Bush would follow in the footsteps of his predecessor on UNCLOS.
With no real hope of landing a non-existent UNCLOS job with the State Department, and having accumulated student debt, I turned my hopes to landing a job with a maritime law firm in Seattle. And land that job I did – Helsell Fetterman was a leading maritime law firm at the time. From Holland America cruise line, to Chevron Shipping Company, to East Point Seafood/Queen Fisheries, to Seattle Boat Company, my law firm had a broad base of maritime clients that ran the range of maritime industries, from shipping to fishing to pleasure boating to marine lenders and vendors. I joined Helsell Fetterman as a summer clerk in 1987, returned full time as an associate attorney after graduating and taking the bar exam in 1988, and I have been there ever since. To this day I continue to serve a number of maritime clients, although my practice has branched out over the years into other practice areas.
How was the maritime industry in Seattle in the early years of your career?
What was changed in the meantime?
Seattle is surely a microcosm of what the maritime industry is experiencing across the globe. There have been many changes in the maritime industry in Seattle over the course of my career, not the least of which have been in the fisheries sector. There is a neighborhood in Seattle called Ballard that was settled and populated for generations by Nordic fishermen. That small neighborhood was the epi-center for the U.S. North Pacific (Alaska and the Pacific Northwest) fishing industry. It was – and to a lesser extent, still is – home to fishing companies, shipyards, outfitters, and Fishermen’s Terminal where the fleet rested and repaired during the off-seasons. In those days, fishing was prone to boom and bust and more boom and bust, with extra doses of bust worked in from time to time.
Seeing the evils of Olympic-style fisheries – where when the gun goes off to open a season the goal of every fisherman is to catch as many fish as possible in the time before the next gun sounded to close the season – fisheries authorities at both federal and state levels adopted quota and license systems. While such systems served to reduce the catch, stretch seasons out, and improve safety and sustainability, they had the unintended (intended?) consequence of commoditizing the right to fish. What I mean by that is he who held a quota right or a fishing license suddenly held a very valuable, exclusive right to participate in a monopolistic venture that kept out newcomers and reduced competition. Smart folks with money saw that value and bought up quotas, rights, and licenses, along with the vessels and their owning companies, bringing massive consolidation to an industry that had previously been de-centralized over many small operators. When I look out my window at work and see the big factory trawlers, I often joke to myself that these days the North Pacific fisheries is operated more out of Wall Street (New York) than Ballard, as venture capital and other big sources of money rolled into Seattle to buy up the ability to participate in fisheries that today are virtual monopolies in comparison to what they were in the first decade after the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976. That Act, by the way, was ironically adopted to protect the small fishing companies from the behemoth foreign-flagged fishing vessels taking fish from waters adjacent to the American coast (and giving rise to the exclusive economic zone concept embraced by UNCLOS III).
I think the objectives of the first part of the interview have been achieved, so I propose to stop here with the first part.
I think your last question and answer has already piqued the reader's interest to continue watching this interview. Futureoftheocean promises that this interest will be fully rewarded when the second part of the interview is published.
Mr. Scott Collins is managing partner of Helsell Fetterman in Seattle.
For information about Helsell Fetterman please visit company’s site:
For contacting Mr. Collins please visit the page:
The pictures have been provided by Mr. Scott Collins.
This interview was published first time on September 2022 of futureoftheocean.com
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