Transport: shipping - litigation and regulation in United States
Leveraging an 'impressive set up across the country, covering every aspect of shipping regulation and litigation', Blank Rome LLP is considered by some to be 'the go-to team' in the US for shipping and maritime law. The team has a strong presence in two centers for commercial shipping activity and disputes resolution (Houston and New York) and also has an established reputation in the country's major policy center (Washington DC). Contacts in the New York office include practice group co-head William Bennett and the 'legendary' John Kimball, who heads the litigation team in the New York office. Keith Letourneau, Jeremy Herschaft and practice co-head Michael Bell are key litigators in the firm's Houston office. Recent highlights for the Houston team included representing Valero in federal litigation concerning a collision with a dock and mooring system on the Mississippi River. New York-based Thomas Belknap and counsel Lauren Wilgus are also recommended for commercial litigation in the shipping and maritime space. Jonathan Waldron and Jeanne Grasso in Washington DC lead the team's most complex regulatory work. Grasso is recognized in particular for her expertise in ballast water compliance and management, while Waldron has continued to represent Chevron and the International Marince Contractors Association in negotiations with the US Customs and Border Protection concerning the operation of foreign-flagged vessels in US waters.
Other key lawyers:
‘Blank Rome has the “go to team” within shipping in the US. They have critical mass, the largest in the US, and they cover every aspect of shipping from regulatory to claims and litigation in both wet and dry and from their different offices they cover the entire country. The setup is simply impressive.’
‘Overall very good support from the team in both NYC and Houston. The team was responsive, knowledgeable and highly supportive throughout an acrimonious and difficult arbitration and litigation process.’
‘Richard Singleton is a seasoned litigator who is always able to cut through to the important parts of a dispute and focus on the important things.’
‘Jeremy Herschaft from the Houston office is working hard and always on top of the cases providing a service next to none on the cases he handles. You feel very “safe” when he is involved.’
‘Bill Bennett is also recommendable and does very impressive work in international trade. ‘
‘Thomas Belknap – incredibly knowledgeable and credible on marine matters. Worked very hard to ensure we, as clients, really understood the merits or otherwise of our position and clearly laid out options and risks associated with those options from day 1. A real gentleman too, despite what the other side threw at us!’
‘Tom Belknap is also a sharp litigator and will give you an honest answer from the very beginning.’
‘Michael Bell – again a very credible and impressive force which was great to have on our side. Very helpful throughout the process.’
‘The team also consists of other great lawyers such as legendary John Kimball and newly elected partner Lauren Wilgus who handled a delicate case for us in 2019 where she managed to get a Danish judgment recognized in the US. This was impressive work.’
AET (American Eagle Tankers)
APL (American President Lines)
Carnival Corp/Princess Cruises
China Ocean Shipping Company
Gulf Stream Marine
Mediterranean Shipping Company
Odyssey Marine Exploration
- Advising Norwegian multinational Equinor in response to the effects of Hurricane Dorian on its oil terminal in the Bahamas.
- Acting for G&H Towing, which operates a fleet of more than 35 harbor tugs, and provides harbor towing services in the largest ports in the United States, in relation to a dispute that arose after an oil tanker caught fire.
- Representing Chevron and the International Marine Contractors Association, a leading trade association, in attempting to overturn a controversial government proposal that seeks to increase the use of Jones Act offshore services vessels to the exclusion of foreign-flagged vessels.
- Acting for oil tanker, Alnic its owner, Energetic Tank and vessel manager, Stealth Maritime, in relation to a major 2017 collision between a US Navy destroyer, the USS John McCain, and the Alnic. The guided-missile destroyer collided with the Alnic east of the Malacca Strait, killing 10 Navy sailors.
- Advising various shipping on the impact of government tariffs on shipping industry, following the Trump administration’s introduction of 25-percent tariff on steel imports and a 10-percent levy on aluminium shipments from China.
Freehill Hogan & Mahar LLP
Based in New York, Freehill Hogan & Mahar LLP fields a team of 'dedicated maritime lawyers with deep experience in the law', and is considered by some to be 'the best shipping law firm in New York'. Headed by Wayne Meehan, the team has a strong vessel and cargo liability, and personal injury defense practice, handling occupational disease cases, workmen’s compensation disputes, Defense Base Act cases and premises liability claims. The team is also recognized for its experience defending shipowners charged with maritime and environmental crimes. Other key figures in the team include Don Murnane, rated for his 'experience of US-flagged vessels and military contracts'; Peter Gutowski, who won two significant arbitrations over the past year relating to the wrongful termination of contracts; Daniel Fitzgerald, who is representing Mediterranean Shipping Company in relation to a drug seizure on board one of its chartered vessels; and Gina Venezia, who has experience in federal and state court litigation, including appeals, as well as in US arbitration. Eric Matheson is a name to note on the more junior end of the partnership. William Juska retired at the end of 2019.
Other key lawyers:
‘Our general impression of the team as a whole is that they are a firm highly specializes in Maritime Law that provides great results for a reasonable price, also good team players. By far, Freehill Hogan & Mahar LLP is the best shipping law firm in New York’
‘The team is comprised of dedicated maritime lawyers with deep experience in the law. They are both driven and well-rounded, fiercely competitive and cognizant of the big picture concerns in providing great value.’
‘We also engage on regular basis partner Don Murnane who advises our company for US Government contract. Don’s experience in U.S. flag vessels and military contracts has worked as a compass for us, always available to identify the risks and crucial points during the decision making process.’
Britannia P&I Club
Thomas Miller (Americas)
McAllister Towing & Transportation
Crowley Marine Corp.
- Representing the Mediterranean Shipping Company in connection with a drug seizure on board the MSC GAYANE, with potential civil penalties of $600m.
- Defended American President Lines against a personal injury claim made by a cargo receiver who was injured by a manufacturer’s defect in a shipping container, obtaining summary judgment dismissing the complaint.
- Defending a shipowner, Chimbusco America, against maritime lien claims asserted by a fuel oil supplier, obtaining decisions in the US District Court for the Southern District of Texas and in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals denying the lien claim.
- Defending McAllister Towing and Transportation in a case where two of its tugs were assisting the cruise ship Norwegian Epic in docking, when it struck a pier in San Juan, Puerto Rico, allegedly causing $11m in damages.
- Representing West of England P&I Club as the owners and insurers of the M/V COURAGE, a car carrier which experienced a fire at sea resulting in claims of $50m.
K&L Gates has a 'top-class' reputation in the market, built through regular involvement in some of the largest agency investigations and litigation. Recent highlights have included acting for Tote in relation to the sinking of the SS EL FARO, which marked the largest marine vessel casualty since the 1980s; and defending MID-Ship Group against allegations made by the Office of Foreign Asset Control that the clients' conduct had violated sanctions regulations. The firm also boasts a strong government relations team, which has in-depth knowledge of legislative, policy and regulatory issues affecting the maritime industry. Contacts in the DC office include head of policy and regulation Michael Scanlon, Mark Ruge, Steven Sparling and Darrell Conner, all of whom have broad-base expertise in maritime issues including Jones Act compliance, risk management and liability, and sanctions compliance. Also recommended are Boston-based Jefferey King, an active litigator in the team, and government affairs counselor and former member of the US House of Representatives Jeff Denham, who joined the Washington DC office in May 2019. The team also has a highly rated bench of younger talent, including recently promoted partner George Kontakis and associate Luke Steinberger in NewYork, and Boston-based counsel Luke Reid.
‘Known top class knowledge and litigation capabilities in liner shipping and market practice. Extremely efficient in responding our inquiry and quality response at all time.’
‘External council always has sufficient legal knowledge but rarely have knowledge in market practice, and in house council needs to spend some time/costs to educate external council of industrial best practice so that external council may offer proper advice afterwards. To with K&L Gate, they have sound knowledge in industrial best practice and we can easily communicate with them.’
American Maritime Partnership (AMP) (f/k/a Maritime Cabotage Task Force)
American Bureau of Shipping
Kissner Group Holdings
Matson Navigation Company
American Seafoods Company
- Representing Tote, the US-based leader in ship management, marine operations and vessel services in the investigation and claim concerning the sinking of SS EL FARO.
- Acting for Ripley Entertainment as the owner/operator of a duck tour boat that sank on July 19, 2018 on Table Rock Lake in Missouri resulting in 17 deaths. Representing in connection with investigations being conducted by the US Coast Guard, which has convened a Marine Board of Investigation and the National Transportation Safety Board, as well as criminal and civil proceeding.
- Outside counsel to American Bureau of Shipping on legislative and regulatory matters involving US foreign classification societies and economic sanctions against certain foreign nations.
- Defending Crane Co. against claims for personal injury arising from asbestos exposure, most often alleged to have occurred on board ships (commercial or military) or in shipyards.
- Defending Interoceanic Corporation in arbitration before the Society of Maritime Arbitrators, in a claim against a vessel owner seeking damages in an alleged breach of a charter party arising out of Interoceanic’s non-performance in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.
Clyde & Co LLP represents US and international shipping companies, commodities trading firms and insurers in liability and cargo disputes, environmental claims, marine and industrial facility casualties, and criminal enforcement actions. The firm is also known for its strong track record representing maritime insurers and P&I Clubs in maritime litigation and arbitration. Other core areas of expertise include OFAC sanctions, insolvency and restructuring matters. Key figures in the New York team include John Woods and John Keough, both of whom have decades of experience in maritime insurance and reinsurance work. On the West Coast, San Francisco-based Conte Cicala is rated for his 'detailed understanding of the complexities of the liner-shipping industry and the practical application of US competition laws'. Corey Greenwald and senior counsel George Cornell are also recommended for marine casualty work and other insurance claims.
‘Highly competent, well-connected and amicable. Global presence a plus.’
‘Conte Cicala is practical, approachable and commercial. He is equally comfortable dealing with our legal or commercial teams and is able to tailor his advice to suit his audience. He has a detailed understanding of the complexities of the liner-shipping industry and the practical application of US competition laws. He is pro-active and measured.’
‘John Woods and Corey Greenwald are professional and of the highest integrity.’
‘John Woods has a complete understanding of business and insurance issues surrounding the Maritime Industry. He can be called upon to provide sound advice and to recommend the correct course of action when complex legal issues arise.’
Red Hook Container Terminal
Water Quality Insurance
Syndicate (WQIS )
MS Amlin (Lloyd’s)
Channel Syndicate (Lloyd’s)
American Shipowners P&I Clubs
Cozen O'Connor is highlighted for its 'highly efficient service' and its 'impressive breadth of expertise' across a range of maritime litigation and key regulatory issues such as Jones Acts compliance and cabotage laws, sanctions and competition law. The practice group is jointly led by Jeffrey Lawrence in the DC office, and Geoffrey Ferrer in New York, rated for his ability to 'understand his clients' businesses to a level that you rarely find with an attorney'. A particular strength for the team is the representation of industry associations, an area where Robert Magovern and Wayne Rohde are names to note. Also recommended are Anne Mickey and Jeffrey Vogel, who represents ocean carriers and cruise lines in matters before various federal agencies. Neil Quartaro joined the team from Watson Farley & Williams (New York) LLP in 2020.
Other key lawyers:
‘The team at Cozen O’Connor are a cohesive unit, providing a streamlined and highly efficient service to clients. The quality of the individuals is very high and the breadth of expertise across the group is impressive. One stand out point is the ability to deal, and work effectively, with attorneys on the other side of a matter. This reduces unnecessary friction and, ultimately, serves their clients better.’
‘Geoffrey Ferrer understands his clients’ businesses to a level which you rarely find with an attorney. He is very experienced, commercially savvy and a pleasure to work with. Whatever problems his clients are facing, he is able to bring to bear substantial expertise on a huge range of issues within shipping and then to present clear, thoughtful legal advice together with workable solutions that make perfect commercial sense. He is able to get straight to the heart of the matter with minimal fuss and hand-holding from the client and is always available and responsive.’
Maersk Line and A.P Moller-Maersk
American Enterprise Fishing
McAllister Towing and Transportation Company
Digital Container Shipping Association
Compagnie Du Ponant
Ocean Carrier Equipment Management Association Agreement
West Coast MTO Agreement
Consolidated Chassis Management (CCM)
- Representing American Enterprise Fishing, and the US flag vessel American Enterprise, in connection with a preferred mortgage foreclosure action brought by First Commercial Bank.
- Acting for McAllister Towing and Transportation Company, in relation to the bankruptcy of Horizon Shipbuilding.
- Advised Compagnie du Ponant on various issues regarding operation of luxury overnight passenger vessels in Alaska, California, and Hawaii, including licensing, bonds, and potential tax implications.
- Assisted West Coast MTO Agreement with regulatory guidance with respect to compliance with Federal Maritime Commission regulations.
Jones Walker LLP fields 'a talented group of experienced lawyers with a diverse range of experience' in litigation involving personal injury, property damage and indemnity claims, maritime insurance, offshore drilling operations, dispatch and demurrage, and matters relating to the Jones Act. Contacts in the team include maritime practice head Scott Jenkins; Grady Hurley, whose expertise lies at the intersection of maritime and energy law; and Richard Bertram and Jefferson Tillery, who together have more than 60 years of experience representing clients in litigation and investigations involving marine casualties and environmental incidents. The firm was further strengthened in 2019 by the arrival of a team of lawyers from Fowler Rodriguez, including experienced trial lawyer George Fowler. The team is based in New Orleans.
‘Jones Walker has a talented group of experienced lawyers with a diverse range of experience acting in various disputes involving the shipping industry’
Gulf Marine Fabricators
The Gray Insurance Company
State Bank & Trust Company
- Acted for Gulf Marine Fabricators, a manufacturer of specialized offshore structures and marine vessels used in the energy sector, in a breach of contract litigation.
- Represented Tesla Offshore at trial where the on matters concerning the Safety Environmental Management Systems and the MODU Code for foreign flagged vessels operating on the Outer Continental Shelf.
- Representing the Gray Insurance Company as the primary insurer of Danos, a multinational offshore oilfield service company, in a catastrophic oilfield explosion occurring at a Williams’ Partners’ natural gas facility on Bayou Black in Gibson, Louisiana.
McGuireWoods LLP has a strong reputation in the maritime space, advising a range of clients including ocean carriers, retailers, shipyards and off-shore infrastructure providers on Jones Act compliance, and international trade issues, among others. The practice group is headed by John Padgett in Norfolk, the point of contact for the team's key clients, such as Colonna's Shipyards. Padgett has considerable experience in charterparty disputes and cargo damage claims, and provides ongoing customs and ocean carriage advice to several leading multinational retailers.
- Advised Colonna’s Shipyard on negotiating the construction of and transportation of a dry dock from a Turkish shipyard.
- Assisting Dominion Energy with resolving Jones Act issues relating to an offshore wind project.
Seward & Kissel LLP's shipping litigation team 'knows the subject inside out and have good instincts for how the relevant courts will react'. In addition to having strengths in core areas of maritime litigation, such as charterparty and cargo disputes and bankruptcy-related litigation, the team is also recognized for its expertise in sanctions law, piracy, and vessel arrests. A contact for sanctions work is Bruce Paulsen, 'a superb tactician who can see many moves ahead'. Paulsen's primary focus is on securities and corporate law disputes involving key maritime jurisdictions, including the Marshall Islands, Scandinavia, the UK and the US. Paulsen is currently acting for the secured lenders in relation to the ongoing coordination of US actions arising out of the collapse of O.W. Bunker & Trading and O.W. Supply & Trading; and is also representing Commodities & Minerals Enterprise in a significant international arbitration against a Venezuelan mining company concerning agreements for the purchase and transportation of iron ore. Also recommended is Brian Maloney, a commercial litigator, who works closely alongside Paulsen on the team's largest and most complex cases. Jeffrey Dine left for Kishner Miller Himes in January 2020.
Other key lawyers:
‘I have seen first hand how S&K are excellent in the realm of highly complicated, multi-district litigation matters, which in this case involved international maritime and arbitration aspects, as well as complicated debt collection litigation. Bruce Paulsen is a superb tactician who can see many moves ahead, which is invaluable in complex matters spanning years of litigation.’
‘The shipping litigation team at S&K know their subject inside out and have good instincts for how the relevant courts will react. They are commercial and responsive.’
‘Well known in the industry as a and perhaps the top firm in the shipping industry.’
‘Bruce Paulsen is the go-to litigator for maritime matters and is extremely well-known.’
‘Bruce Paulson is the lead partner and he is clearly a leader in the field. We have also worked closely with Brian Maloney, recently promoted to Counsel, who is very user-friendly and responsive.’
Commodities & Mineral Enterprise
Star Bulk Carriers Corp.
Blue Wall Shipping
- Representing DryShips and certain of its officers and directors in connection with a suit brought in the High Court of the Marshall Islands alleging that defendants were the recipients of fraudulent conveyances of assets from non-party Ocean Rig UDW.
- Acted for ING Bank in approximately 48 actions in connection with claims arising following the collapse of O.W. Bunker & Trading and O.W. Supply & Trading.
- Acting on behalf of DryShips in connection with putative securities fraud class action cases brought in the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York concerning stock splits and securities issuances.
Winston & Strawn LLP has a strong track record in high-stakes maritime litigation, but is recognized in particular for its expertise in US flagging issues and Jones Act compliance. Headed by Charlie Papavizas, the team acts for a variety of clients in the industry, but is especially experienced in acting for terminal operators and carriers in matters involving the Federal Maritime Commission, and other federal agencies. In one standout highlight, Papavizas is acting for American Petroleum Institute in a case brought against the US Customs and Border Protection Agency by two US shipping and shipyard trade associations regarding the interpretation of the Jones Act determining the types of vessels able to provide certain services in the Gulf of Mexico. The practice group is also rated for its experience in the offshore wind industry. Bryant Gardner is also recommended in the DC-based team. Gerald Morrissey left for Holland & Knight LLP, and Allen Black joined Mills Black LLP.
Other key lawyers:
Liberty Maritime Corporation
American Petroleum Institute
Santa Fe Discount Cruise Parking
Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Company
The Mosaic Company
Schuyler Lines Navigation Company
Global Marketing Systems
Liberty Global Logistics
- Advising Texas Bluewater Terminal, a subsidiary of Phillips 66, in a ground-breaking regulatory compliance to obtain a license for a deepwater oil export port designed to serve two simultaneous tankers off the coast of Corpus Christi.
- Advising Eagle LNG Partners in connection with the development of a marine LNG bunkering project.
- Acting on behalf of Liberty Maritime Corporation in the protection and promotion of key government programs, before key agencies and the Congress, to preserve and sustain the US-flag international trade.
- Acting on behalf of Liberty Maritime Corporation and the international US-flag industry in respect to the preservation and continued vitality of the fleet’s participation in international food assistance programs and the maintenance of cargo preference requirements.
- Assisting Dome Chartering & Trading Corp. and Schuyler Line Navigation Co in connection with maritime regulatory advice, including Shipping Act compliance, MARPOL matters and federal promotional programs.
Zeiler Floyd Zadkovich
Launched in 2017, Zeiler Floyd Zadkovich is a boutique law firm handling highly specialized maritime litigation and advisory work, for a client roster including multinational shipping companies and bulk carriers, freight forwarders, insurance companies and P&I clubs. From its base in New York, the team has expanded quickly over the past couple of years, having opened an office in Chicago with the hire of Timothy McGovern from Swanson, Martin & Bell; and then establishing an office in Houston in 2020. In addition to its expansion across the US, the team is noted for its ability to advise on US and UK law, working in conjunction with its counterpart in the firm's London office. The firm is led by name partners Luke Zadkovich and Edward Floyd: Zadkovich has previous experience working at a major P&I club, and Floyd (a graduate of the US Naval Academy) has experience of commodities and trade, in addition to maritime law.
Thompson Hine LLP is most active in advising shippers and intermediaries on policy issues and rulemaking procedures before the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC). The name to note in this space is Karyn Booth, who has recently advocated for various industry associations before the FMC, and has also been involved in cargo loss and damage claims. Booth handles ongoing freight forwarding and service argeements for a number of well-known retailers. Jason Tutrone is a recommended associate in the practice group.
Other key lawyers:
Costco Wholesale Corporation
The Coalition for Fair Port Practices
Health & Personal Care Conference
The Dow Chemical Company
- Acting on behalf of the Coalition for Fair Port Practices, in filing a Petition for Rulemaking at the Federal Maritime Commission requesting a statement of policy interpreting the Shipping Act of 1984, as amended, with regard to the reasonableness of ocean carrier and marine terminal operator demurrage and detention.
- Representing the National Industrial Transportation League in obtaining the State Department advisory status and served on the US Delegation to the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law in the negotiation of a new international ocean cargo liability treaty known as the Rotterdam Rules
- Advising Costco Wholesale on contracts with ocean carriers and ocean transportation intermediaries for international shipments.