Transport: Shipping in Canada

Bernard LLP

Vancouver-based Bernard LLP brings together its signature strengths in maritime and insurance law to advise on high-stakes disputes in the shipping industry. Notable areas of expertise include collision-related litigation, environmental issues, cargo claims and charterparty disputes. In addition, the team also advises on regulatory and transactional matters. Gary Wharton and Peter Swanson are both highly regarded for their strong experience in complex shipping cases.

Practice head(s):

Peter Swanson; Gary Wharton

Borden Ladner Gervais LLP

Borden Ladner Gervais LLP has a full-service shipping practice, which acts for shipowners, operators, charterers, liner companies and insurers. The national group is particularly dominant in Montreal and Vancouver. Group head Jean-Marie Fontaine and senior counsel Jeremy Bolger are based in the firm's Montreal office, and up-and-coming Dionysios Rossi is a key name in Vancouver. Peter Pamel was recently appointed Judge of the Federal Court.

Practice head(s):

Jean-Marie Fontaine

Other key lawyers:

Dionysios Rossi; Jeremy Bolger

Work highlights

  • Represented Mitsui O.S.K. Lines in several Canadian Federal Court actions concerning alleged damage to various types of refrigerated containerized cargo.
  • Advised British Columbia Coast Pilots in judicial review proceedings arising out of decision by Transport Canada to order the removal of the tug wreck ‘Samantha J’ from Northumberland Channel.
  • Represented Fathom Marine, a tug and barge operator, in all Canadian court proceedings arising from the grounding of the barge Investigator in Tuktoyaktuk in the Northwest Territories.
  • Represented BC Ferries in a breach of confidence tort claim and a breach of contract claim.

Brisset Bishop

Montreal-based Brisset Bishop is widely recognized as the leading shipping boutique in Quebec. The firm has expertise across the spectrum of wet and dry shipping law, with strong skill sets in cargo claims, charterparty disputes and regulatory matters. David Colford ranks among the leading shipping experts in the country, while Danièle Dion is also recommended.

Norton Rose Fulbright

Norton Rose Fulbright has broad expertise across the shipping industry, and is able to utilize its strong domestic presence and expansive global network to handle complex and resource-heavy shipping matters. In Vancouver, Shelley Chapelski is highly regarded for her experience in both transactional and contentious matters, while John Bromley QC is sought after for his litigation expertise. Also recommended is Montreal-based Vanessa Rochester, whose practice covers aspects of transport and energy law.

Practice head(s):

Shelley Chapelski

Other key lawyers:

John Bromley QC; Vanessa Rochester


The maritime group is competent, pragmatic and relate well with one another as a team. There is good leadership and mentorship in place and we are confident using any lawyer within the team for this reason.’

We feel our interests come first and that a proactive approach is always taken to resolve issues. Effective communication from the outset assists with establishing direction in order to avoid over-working files, which sets them apart from other firms.’

NRF Canada LLP’s shipping team could provide global support to deal with very different aspects of our deal (LMA standards, Canadian law, English law…), which makes the team very adaptable.’

Shelley Chapelski is honest, dynamic, creative, motivated, hard-working, pragmatic and has excellent communication skills.’

John Bromley provides timely, commercial, practical and useful advice. He’s our go-to resource for admiralty law issues.’

Vanessa Rochester showed excellent negotiation skills; she was able to find the middle ground satisfactory to all parties.’

Key clients

Groupe Desgagnés and subsidiaries (Petro-Nav Inc.)

Seaspan ULC & other companies of the Washington Marine Group

Le Groupe Océan (aka Ocean Group)

Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC)

Ship-source Oil Pollution Fund

Port of Quebec

Seaspan Ship Management Ltd.

Bridgeman Services Group LP

Neptune Bulk Terminals (Canada) Ltd.

North of England P&I Association Ltd.

Harlock Murray Underwriting

Shipowners’ Mutual Protection & Indemnity Association Limited.

West of England Protection & Indemnity Club

Work highlights

  • Advised Ship Source-Oil Pollution Fund on a pollution incident arising out of the sinking of the MV Matterhorn.
  • Assisted Lehigh Hanson Materials, and its insurer, with pursuing actions for damage to its vessel caused on two different occasions by a towing company.
  • Acting for Spliethoff Transport and Spliethoff Canada in a charterparty dispute.
  • Represented the Quebec Port Authority in two environmental class actions stemming from dust emissions associated with the stevedoring operations of co-defendant Quebec Stevedoring.

Fernandes Hearn LLP

Shipping is a key pillar at transportation boutique Fernandes Hearn LLP, which handles a diverse mix of regulatory, transactional and contentious issues. Founding partner Rui Fernandes advises across all areas of marine law, with insurance-related matters standing out as a particular strength.

Practice head(s):

Rui Fernandes

Other key lawyers:

Gordon Hearn

Isaacs & Co

Toronto-based litigation specialist Isaacs & Co is especially active in cargo claims and environmental disputes. It also houses a significant non-contentious practice, which advises on bills of lading, contracts of carriage and other commercial documents. Marc Isaacs focuses on contentious insurance and transportation matters.

Practice head(s):

Marc Isaacs

Stewart McKelvey

Stewart McKelvey has a diverse shipping practice, which is spread across the firm’s offices in the port cities of Halifax, St. John’s and Saint John. The Atlantic Canada-focused firm covers the full spread of maritime matters, from regulatory issues through to major casualties cases. Names to note include Saint John-based Paul Harquail and Halifax-based Will Moreira QC, whose market-leading status is widely acknowledged.

Practice head(s):

Paul Harquail

Other key lawyers:

Will Moreira QC

Stikeman Elliott LLP

Complemented by the wider firm’s robust litigation, insurance and corporate practices, Stikeman Elliott LLP provides broad national coverage of maritime and shipping law matters. The team is led by Peter Cullen in Montreal, who enjoys a strong profile for insurance and dispute resolution.

Practice head(s):

Peter Cullen