The Admiralty & Maritime team at Pierce Atwood is prepared to help you navigate the complex patchwork of federal, state and local laws governing activities along the shore and at sea. Recognizing that our clients' needs often do not end at the water's edge, our team includes attorneys with expertise in admiralty, environmental, real estate, commercial, corporate, banking and tax law.

Drawing from our many established practice groups, we have the breadth and depth of knowledge and experience necessary to assist you with matters ranging from litigating traditional admiralty claims, to securing regulatory permits for industrial, commercial, and residential development, to developing off-shore wind farms, and virtually everything in between.

Areas of Expertise

Boat Builders

Pierce Atwood's attorneys have a long history of representing boat builders on a national and local scale. We have negotiated and drafted contracts for many large scale vessel construction and repair projects. We also have extensive experience litigating matters involving claims of vessel construction and design defects. Additionally, we assist marine facilities to comply with the myriad of applicable local, state and federal environmental laws.

Coastal Development & Public Access

Coastal property has economic, aesthetic and environmental value. These qualities lead to heavy regulation and frequent intense debates over the right to develop or preserve property in and along the coastal zone. Pierce Atwood has significant experience helping clients obtain permits and navigate the numerous processes for the responsible construction of piers, docks and other shoreline structures.

Collision & Allision

Pierce Atwood’s Maritime Group attorneys represent vessel owners in collision cases, and in allision cases involving vessel contact with bridges and other fixed structures.

Marine Construction, Dredging & Towage

Pierce Atwood’s Maritime Group represents New England marine construction, dredging and towage companies in connection with projects all over the world, and a national, general construction company when its projects involve maritime operations.  Our work for these businesses includes the formation of corporations and other business entities, the drafting of various types of contracts including charters and towage agreements, and the financing, purchase and sale of vessels and equipment, as well as litigation.  We have also assisted clients with obtaining the necessary local, state, and federal approvals necessary for construction of piers, retaining walls, and bridges, as well as harbor dredging and disposal of spoils. When necessary, the Maritime Group consults with the firm’s corporate and tax attorneys to provide clients with comprehensive solutions.

Marine Insurance

Pierce Atwood’s Maritime Group attorneys have handled significant marine insurance coverage litigation for various types of marine insurers. The Maritime Group’s attorneys also routinely assist marine insurers in providing defense to various types of claims, and in connection with seeking subrogation recovery.

Representative Experience

Marine Pollution

Pierce Atwood’s Maritime Group attorneys have represented vessel owners, facility owners and claimants in a variety of oil spill cases. As marine oil spills can also of course originate on land, as for example in connection with marine terminal operations, the Maritime Group’s attorneys can draw on the extensive experience of the firm’s shore side environmental attorneys to offer clients comprehensive assistance in such situations.  In addition, our environmental attorneys have addressed multiple Superfund sites in riverine and marine environments, and have many decades of experience on Clean Water Act and wetlands matters.

Marine Terminals, Shipyards & Marinas

Pierce Atwood’s Maritime Group attorneys have represented marine terminal and marina owners in claims for vessel damage to piers, docks, and other floating and fixed structures, and also have defended vessel owners in connection with the same types of claims. The firm’s Maritime Group attorneys also assist shipyards, marinas and boatyards in connection with claims for wharfage, storage and removal of abandoned or wrecked vessels and in enforcement actions relating to waste and stormwater management. 

Maritime Arrests & Attachments

Pierce Atwood’s Maritime Group represents banks and other lenders, marine fuel suppliers and other providers of maritime “necessaries,” salvage companies, towage companies, and various other types of maritime claimants, in the arrest or attachment of vessels ranging from oil tankers to private yachts, and of other types of maritime property.  The Maritime Group also has extensive experience in defending vessel owners and others in connection with arrests and attachments.  Maritime arrests and attachments of course hinge on whether a claim falls within the federal courts’ admiralty jurisdiction, and our attorneys have substantial experience in connection with admiralty jurisdiction matters, including successful representation of the petitioner before the United States Supreme Court in Exxon Corp. v. Central Gulf Lines, Inc., 500 U.S. 603 (1991), in which the Supreme Court expanded federal admiralty jurisdiction over contracts. 

The group’s attorneys also are exceptionally familiar with the Supplemental Rules for Admiralty and Maritime Claims and Asset Forfeiture Actions of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and the case law construing them, as well as with the local practices of the federal courts and the U.S. Marshals’ Service in the districts of Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.  Pierce Atwood’s Maritime Group attorneys played a leading role in drafting the Local Admiralty Rules for the United States District Court for the District of Rhode Island.  As frequently maritime arrests and attachments must be accomplished quickly, before a vessel departs a jurisdiction, our experience and expertise in this area are of great value to clients seeking to obtain security and otherwise protect their rights under maritime law.


Pierce Atwood’s Maritime Group attorneys have represented salvors in securing rights to wrecks, and also have defended vessel owners in salvage claims by salvors.

Seaman's Claims

Our attorneys have represented vessel owners and operators in connection with lawsuits brought by their maritime employees in state and federal court. We have litigated claims arising under the Jones Act and under the general maritime law for unseaworthiness and maintenance and cure.

Ship Mortgages

Pierce Atwood's attorneys have advised clients in connection with many complex vessel purchase and construction transactions that depend on perfection of preferred ships mortgages. Our team also is experienced in litigation in matters arising out of foreclosures on ship mortgages and vessel repossessions.