Shortly after graduating Miami Law in '98, Denise Krepp became a JAG officer for the Coast Guard. Over the next 10 years, Ms. Krepp ascended the ranks during one of the most pivotal times in the United States history for Maritime Law. In 2009, she became Chief Counsel of the Maritime Administration.
"I owe a lot of my success to Miami Law," said Ms. Krepp, who also acknowledges faculty members such as Professor Bernard Oxman, Professors Richard and Jeannette Hausler, and Professor Hugo Caminos who taught her about legal procedures, about how to think, and about poise.
"I wanted a law school with an international curriculum and environment," said Ms. Krepp on why she chose to attend Miami Law. "The diversity of the Miami Law community, with students from Central and South America, Cuba, and the other islands, made law school a very broadening experience."
Likewise, Ms. Krepp attributes her rise to Chief Counsel of the Maritime Administration to her ability to think out of the box and her willingness to go that extra mile.
"You have to be willing to get yourself a little dirty," said Mrs. Krepp to the Miami Law students last month during her lecture The United States Maritime Administration: Mission, Programs and Employment Opportunities. She urged students to read beyond what is required. "If you are interested in going into Maritime Law you have to start reading industry publications so that you can understand how what happened in the world impacts your clients."
As for whether recent graduates should consider Maritime Law Ms. Krepp thinks it is an exciting time to be involved in the Maritime industry with the pending expansion of the Panama Canal, the situation in Korea, and the war in Afghanistan. However, with an economy that is still crawling out of a recession, and drastic cutbacks in government spending, she knows it is also a precarious time in the industry.
"When the recession happened a lot of the ships were laid up, and if they weren't laid up then the ships were moving at a loss. And this significantly impacted the existing US flag fleet."
With only 100 plus US flagged ships, the decisions to decrease US run ships could threaten the future of US economy, says Ms. Krepp.
She emphasizes that when it comes down to discussions about Maritime Law, it is a conversation about cargo, infrastructure, manpower and money.
And the United States is losing its advantage.
"A lot of shipyards are closing," she says and points to examples such as the Aker Philadelphia Shipyard. Then there's the Avondale Shipyard in New Orleans, which has announced that unless financial assistance can come through, they will be closed by the year 2013.
Ms. Krepp emphasizes that for every community that loses a shipyard, America loses much more.
"How are you going to replace a ship if you don't have a shipyard? If we can't repair ships we're not going to know how to build ships in 20 years."
The ships currently registered to the United States will go elsewhere. "If those ships reflag out, we're not going to have people qualified to sail those ships in 20 years."
It's all about the big picture, she says.
"If we don't have those ships, we can't depend on them in times of war."
While Maritime in the United States is at a critical point, there are still opportunities for students to get early, hands-on experience with the Marine Highway Program, organizations invested in water transport along the Mississippi, the Coast Guard, the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
And the U.S. Maritime Administration office is looking to hire six interns to work this summer.
Denise Krepp. (Photo: Provided to Miami Law)