The first part of the interview with Mr. Scott Collins was about his early years, about the start of his connections with ocean and his education in reputable American learning institutions as well about his way to the maritime law.
The second part of the interview was about Mr. Scott Collins professional development and fulfilment but also about the evolution of the local maritime industry and of the maritime industry, as actively witnessed by him during more than 30 years of career.
This third and final part will go beyond professional Scott Collins. We will discuss life balance, passions (usually called hobbies) but also visions of the future.
I trust you will enjoy this third part of the interview as much as the first two parts, if not more. I also trust that after this interview you will follow Mr. Collins on LinkedIn, read his posts, and interact with him, benefiting from his great wisdom, love for life, and endless love for humanity.
You can go back to the second part of the interview simply by clicking on the button on the right of this page and from that page you can go back further to the first part of this interview... or you can simply go to either of the last two interviews through the interviews section on the site.
A correct balance between the professional life and the private life is essential for a sustainable professional development. Looking to the achievements of your career until now, you are definitively one of the best candidates to advise young professionals how to achieve this balance.
I have always believed that to be the best professional I can be – in my occupation, to be a sound evaluator, advisor, counsellor, and advocate – one has to has to bring balance and a healthy dose of common sense to bear. That balance and common sense often comes from having a strong private life that can balance the professional side and even permit escapes to avoid burnout and fatigue and to bring important perspectives.
When I was a young lawyer, my “escape” was scuba diving. While I always enjoyed the travel and ease of diving warm waters in the tropics, I was spoiled to have Puget Sound and its abundant sea life at my front door. Jacque Cousteau once said that Puget Sound and the inland waters to the north off Vancouver Island, British Columbia provide “the best temperate water diving in the world, second only to the Red Sea,” and I could not agree more with that observation. The water is cold and the gear is heavy, but the effort is rewarded once below the surface, whether it be staring down (or feeding an urchin to) a wolf eel, interacting with a giant Pacific octopus, being chased off by a large nesting cabezon or lingcod protecting her eggs, taking in the beauty of cold water, purple coral, or exploring the maze of a thriving kelp bed. Scuba diving also fueled my fondness for maritime history and shipwrecks (and my childhood dreams of pirate adventure behind them). I was that kid again swimming in the surf with my mask and snorkel at the beach on family vacations. I have been fortunate for intersections in my professional and private life by advising and representing undersea explorers who search for and, in some cases, have found long-lost shipwrecks and other submerged cultural heritage.
Time (mainly children and fatherhood) cut into my scuba diving, but I remained steadfastly interested in maritime history, heritage, and archaeology. Although I may be in an armchair and not in a dry suit these days, a passion of mine continues to be shipwrecks, underwater archaeology, and the technologies used and the discoveries made. To that end, while I have been active in the Maritime Group that you administer on LinkedIn, I have been even more active in the Maritime Archaeology group on LinkedIn, hoping that like you in the Maritime Group, I can keep the Maritime Archaeology group informed on the latest finds and developments. I am a voracious reader of news and current events, and my news feeds supply me with the current stories on shipwrecks and maritime archaeology. Sharing those stories with the Maritime Archaeology group is my attempt to play a small part in the international field of maritime archaeology. Not a bad outlet for the stress of a law practice, if you ask me!
Why a passion for the maritime archaeology? Is it any connection with the fact that you are a specialist in the maritime law?
How and when have you developed your passion for maritime archaeology?
My passion for maritime archaeology comes from a combination of many things, most of which I have already mentioned. Yes, my maritime law background plays a definite role. In my work I have seen how ships wreck, the heroic efforts made in each case to save the ship and the lives it holds, and the resulting tragedy that befalls the crew and passengers and their shore-side families. Shipwrecks would make for great theatre if they were not so tragic, although plenty of plays, songs, and movies have been made over the years about the demise of vessels.
But my passion for maritime archaeology predated my practice of law. My two main papers in law school, and my subsequently published article, advocated for consideration of a wreck’s archaeological value and historical significance when weighing resolution of the competing interests in the wreck. For example, the finder of a wreck with historical or archaeological significance should be required to conduct, or at least be rewarded for conducting, archaeological survey and study of a wreck and its artifacts when considering the appropriate salvage award or decree of “finders keepers” ownership. Most salvors today do responsibly take into account the historical and archaeological information a wreck can yield, and this motivation is further driven by laws that call for it.
My strong interest for maritime history also fuels my passion for maritime archaeology, as does my childish desire for swashbuckling pirate adventure. Every shipwreck is a time-capsule filled with historically significant information frozen in time. Whether it be special or unique shipbuilding techniques, or a seaman’s personal effects, or a cargo revealing a previously unknown trade route, long-lost shipwrecks allow us to go back and experience life at sea captured in a moment in time. I have come to appreciate that gold and diamonds are not the only treasure a wreck can yield. Amphoras filled with wine, olive oil or grain is just as valuable when they reveal a new trade route, method for preserving the contents within, or a civilization previously unknown for engaging in maritime commerce.
Maritime archaeology is like putting a puzzle together. Finding a wreck and its artifacts only starts the study. The archaeologist’s job is to then put the pieces together to make the story. How artifacts were assembled on board, how the archival research develops, and how to explain missing pieces, all pull together the picture of the wreck, its journey, and the people and culture involved with it. It is the tedious, disciplined work that goes into the archaeology, like detailing the facts and explanations behind a legal dispute and preparing their presentation for court, that very much appeal to me. Archaeology is super-sleuthing at a maritime level. What’s there not to like about that?
What tells us the maritime archaeology about the future?
Scott Collins: I frequently wonder how the events occurring in our time will be viewed by archaeologists and historians in the future. With fresh water dramatically receding due to drought, allowing human creep on to previously submerged lands, future archaeologists will encounter human effects when the fresh water eventually returns (it will, right?). On the flip side, with the current rise in sea level, existing human structures are being subsumed by the rise and causing retreat from the littoral, much like civilizations experienced at the ends of ice periods. Future archaeologists will certainly find unusual things submerged below the sea that will require their study and explanation.
I frequently think of maritime archaeology each time the news reports of shipping containers going overboard at sea. In time, the seabed will be littered with shipping containers, creating a new type of time capsule for future archaeologists to find, survey, and study. Imagine the find in 500 years of a currently mundane shipment of televisions. Like the shipload of amorphas of wine so mundane 2000 years ago, television sets – perhaps the only ones that could be found from our time – will lead to much study, research and explanation by future experts. Humorous indeed, but such device that played a significant role in human civilization for perhaps a hundred years – really, a mere blink in the timeline of humanity – will be a treasure to the historian, anthropologist, and archaeologist trying to understand civilization in our time.
Or how about a container full of Star Wars light-sabres? Can you imagine the hours and hours future experts will pour over how these “weapons” actually worked, while some dissident scientist controversially comes forward to proclaim they are not weapons, but only toys!
Maritime archaeology – frankly all archaeology – will also someday be deployed to study “artifacts” in space (what we now call space junk) and perhaps even on the Moon or nearby planets. As I look into the night sky during these clear summer nights, I see the reflection off countless satellites circling our globe, and I see the son of a close friend who is developing technology to track all the junk up there for the safety and security of currently functioning satellites and such in our space. What we put into in the sky today, may be there for generations and possibly millennia. Like the shipwrecks under our seas, a satellite sent into orbit today could become its own time capsule in space in time, containing satellite technology and data from this day in age. Space archaeology?
In the meantime, technology utilized in underwater exploration is also rapidly developing. Last week I read (and posted) an article about an underwater drone that has been developed to detect and differentiate metals in the seabed to a depth of 10 meters (30 feet). Such technology, if indeed effective, will accelerate the discovery of long-lost shipwrecks and other cultural resources currently hidden in the seabed. While in theory the number of archaeological discoveries out there are finite, the number of discoveries is growing at an accelerating pace due to the aid of developing technology. The ability to explore and survey the seabed today was only a thing dreamed of ten years ago. With the deep seabed now accessible for exploration, countless shipwrecks will be discovered there over the next decade.
How looks the future in general and the future of the maritime industry in special for Mr. Collins?
Humans have an incredible ability to innovate and adapt as changes are encountered. Rising seas, receding lakes and rivers, labor and talent shortages, and whatever else we face – humans will innovate solutions and adapt practices. What is it they say? “Necessity is the mother of invention!” So true! History is full of examples of innovation in maritime commerce, and that innovation will continue. In fact, I believe it will actually accelerate. I take much heart in the multiple fronts with which the industry is attacking the size of its carbon footprint and other environmental challenges. The way the industry seems to be embracing the notion of a “blue” economy is heartening as we see the numbers on existing carbon output across the industry.
In my view, future stewardship of the industry and the sea and its resources has come full circle from the start of my maritime journey. The international community should use the occasion of the 40th anniversary of UNCLOS III in December 2022 to pledge reassessment and reconsideration of the treaty, its effectiveness, and the holes that remain in its coverage. Whether it be amendments to UNCLOS III or a whole new UNCLOS IV, the legal regimes governing the law of the sea need updating to address the current times and issues. Illegal high seas fishing is one area in desperate need of treaty legislation. Leaving such an issue to the vague concept of “common heritage of mankind” and expecting the nation-state with authority over the fishing vessels engaging in illegal high seas fishing to do the right thing is not working.
The whole topic of deep seabed mining and the role and responsibility of the International Seabed Authority also needs re-evaluation in light of today’s technologies and recent science on the impacts deep seabed mining will have on the ecosystems of the deep ocean. Forty years ago, deep seabed mining was more of a pipedream than a reality for which UNCLOS drafters were shooting in the dark. Today, the prospect of mining the seabed is real – it has already been done over large swaths of seabed – and the technology is understandable and the adverse impacts can be weighed. Inevitably, the terms that were adopted forty years ago would not be the same terms adopted today if legislation on deep seabed mining were to start from scratch. There currently is an opportunity to “get it right” before commercial mining permits are provided. Let’s take advantage of this opportunity and not rely on 40-year-old legislation.
That our oceans today would be so polluted by plastics and microplastics was inconceivable in 1982. While the drafters of the Law of the Sea Convention did not see their role to be environmentalists, ocean pollution has reached a point where you don’t have to be an environmentalist to be alarmed. The common heritage of mankind is polluted, with plastics leading the way for visible pollutants. Something – anything – has to be done on an international level to address the problem. Why not be proactive now in an effort to curb further pollution and to begin the long process of clearing the sea of plastics and microplastics.
Finally, UNCLOS III has clear delineation of a nation-state’s territorial sea, contiguous zone, continental shelf, and exclusive economic zone. Yet, nation-states flaunt the terms of the treaty they formally accepted, in an effort to expand the territory over which they have jurisdiction or rights to resources. Every law in every book should be reviewed from time to time to assess its effectiveness and applicability, and the jurisdictional provisions of UNCLOS III should be no exception. I think the consensus to be reached is that the jurisdiction provisions are in need of tightening to stop artificial and false efforts by a nation-state to expand its maritime jurisdiction.
What are your closing words for the young professionals reading this interview?
One thing the COVID pandemic has shown us is that this world has gotten a lot smaller. All citizens of this planet are more closely connected than we ever imagined, and we need to foster community and stewardship across the globe going forward. The thing that closely binds us all are the oceans – we have an international economy closely linked, such that shutdowns in one country can gum up the entire international supply chain. Impose lockdowns across the globe, and commerce comes to a screeching halt. On top of that, the impacts of illegal activities at sea know no borders and can cause permanent damage to ocean-states and their citizens.
The rule of law is a powerful tool to accomplish change and compliance, and it can be used to foster the community and stewardship the world needs in this time of change and development. Whether you are a lawyer applying or calling for the rule of law; whether you are a legislator or even an influencer calling for the adoption of a law; or you are a citizen or decision-maker choosing to apply the rule of law, we can all effect improvement through responsible adoption, compliance, advocacy, and enforcement of the rule of law. The concept of the rule of law has been applied effectively across the globe in the context of human rights. I think it can and should be applied to our oceans and their uses.
Today’s young professionals see the small world we live in, much better than older generations do. They see the need to be stewards of our planet, in ways that older generations never could. In some ways, young professionals would be well served by me not bestowing my advice and experience on them, for they already hold ideals that will serve them and the world well.
The advice that I would give is not to wait. Don’t wait for “your turn,” as your turn is now. Step forward with your beliefs and make them heard. Rivers are drying up, lakes are receding, seas are rising, endangered species are increasing, all for a reason. Use your technological savvy to address these challenges and make this world a better place. Be the good stewards you will be, and preserve the planet for future generations. And use the rule of law.
Mr. Scott Collins is managing partner of Helsell Fetterman LLP, a Seattle law firm that has been serving clients in the Pacific Northwest since 1890. His law practice focuses on matters that are maritime, finance, and corporate in nature.
For information about Helsell Fetterman please visit company’s site:
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Pictures provided by Mr. Scott Collins
Seattle Tall Ship
Puget Sound Octopus
Pacific NW Shipwreck Map
Peter Iredale Wreck
Mr. Scott Collins profile photo
Street art photographed by Ramona Popa
Aberdeen, sea wall, Beach Boulevard foundation
(Sea horses) Galati, Romania, “Marea Unire” Boulevard (Danube’s cliff)
Galati, Romania, Balcescu Street
Galati, Romania, Domneasca Street, Street art in by MEDE_E_A
About the interview
The three parts of the interview with Mr. Scott Collins were published for the first time on futureoftheocean.combetween September 2022 and January 2023.
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