Maritime Law Society Hosts Ole Varmer, Expert on Titanic and Atocha Shipwrecks, for Lecture on Underwater Cultural Heritage


Maritime Law Society president Andrew Rubin, Ole Varmer and Vice-President Jenna Gushue (Photo: Miami Law)

Miami Law's Maritime Law Society hosted Ole Varmer, a legal adviser to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), in a lecture titled "The Other Side of the Coin: A Talk About Underwater Cultural Heritage."

Varmer's talk was a response to David Paul Horan's lecture at Miami Law last year. While Horan represented the defendant, Mel Fisher, in the 1994 case U.S. v. Fisher, Varmer represented the United States government in that case.

A tall gentleman with a big smile and a soft disposition, Varmer begin his discussion of underwater cultural heritage by asking the audience to guess his heritage. Turns out, he is Danish.

A 1987 graduate of Yeshiva University's Benjamin Cardozo School of Law, Varmer joined NOAA's Office of General Counsel for International Law in 1998. As an attorney-advisor he has worked on a variety of international issues and is primarily responsible for providing advice on the subject areas involving cultural and historic resources, maritime zones and boundaries, coastal zone management, ocean dumping and polar issues.

Prior to joining NOAA, Varmer worked for three years in the Department of Commerce Office of the General Counsel General Law Division. He serves on the Board of Directors for the Lawyers Committee For Cultural Heritage Preservation.

Maritime Law Society President, 3L Andrew Rubin, had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Varmer while interning in D.C. at the NOAA this past summer.

"The Maritime Law Society is very proud to offer opportunities to law students interested in the expansive world of Maritime Law," Rubin said. "Ole Varmer is a very important attorney in the world of underwater cultural heritage protection with fascinating insights worth sharing with the student body."

In a single hour, Varmer discussed international law, how U.S. law protects cultural heritage, the law of salvage v. the law of preservation, and private v. government roles.

"It is crucial that we continue to educate people on the value of preserving our cultural heritage and the importance of devoting both public and private resources to the cause," said Jenna Gushue, Vice-President of the Maritime Law Society. "It's a global issue, but also one that hits particularly close to home for those of us in coastal cities like Miami. We need to be conscious of the laws and regulations that come into play in protecting the heritage of mankind."

When asked why he agreed to come to Miami Law, Varmer said, "I was really excited to come to UM for a number of reasons. First, David Paul Horan, opposing counsel on the U.S. v. Fisher case was here last year, and I wanted the chance to share my side of the coin with UM students. Also, this is a law school where so many people are interested in ocean science and policy. I am grateful to be able to share my experience and knowledge with future leaders in my field."

Raquel Loret de Mola, a 2L who is interested in ocean studies, attended the lecture. "Maritime Law Professor Michael Karcher told me about the lecture, knowing I was interested in this field of law. Given my background in history and my interest in the subject, I really enjoyed the lecture. I am grateful for the opportunity to have heard Mr. Varmer, a world renowned expert, speak about his work on the Titanic and other prevalent Maritime law cases."

Mr. Varmer's lecture is an example of the many events the Maritime Law Society puts on each year.

"The Maritime Law Society brings in speakers from different backgrounds. We have had private practice and government attorneys, representing salvors and environmentalists, plaintiffs and defendants. Events like this allow students to see the various types of careers that are available to them after graduation," said Michael Karcher, Maritime Law Society Faculty Advisor.

The Maritime Law Society, established in 1987, was founded to serve as a forum where students, professors, and alumni could discuss maritime related issues as well as to participate in the area's vast maritime culture. Students interested in joining the Maritime Law Society should visit the organization's website for more information.

Students with an interest in studying Ocean and Coastal law should look into UM Law'sLL.M. in Ocean and Coastal law program.