The 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

Marine Insurance

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

Maritime Arrests & Attachments

Our maritime lawyers represent 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 law attorneys played a leading role in drafting the Local Admiralty Rules for the United States District Court for the District of Rhode Island. As maritime arrests and attachments often 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 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.

Collision & Allision

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

Marine Pollution

Our maritime lawyers 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.

Seaman's Claims

We 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 maritime 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 matters arising out of foreclosures on ship mortgages and vessel repossessions.

Vessel Purchase & Charter

Transactions involving vessel purchases and charters - whether boats, yachts, or ships - are unique. These transactions raise many issues regarding title, taxes, documentation, ownership, and insurance that require expertise in maritime law.

As a full-service law firm with a specialty in maritime law, Pierce Atwood is well-suited to assist with all aspects of acquiring a vessel, from pre-purchase due diligence and contract negotiation through documentation. We assist clients with:

  • Lien searches and due diligence regarding title
  • Ownership structure advice
  • Drafting and advising on purchase and sale agreements
  • Assisting with obtaining and negotiating financing
  • Analysis of possible tax liability in connection with acquisition
  • Tax planning in connection with ownership and use
  • Advice regarding appropriate insurance terms and coverage
  • Documentation, flagging, and/or registration, whether foreign or domestic

Our Vessel Purchase and Charter Team serves clients throughout the world. The team includes maritime lawyer Mike Daly and tax lawyer Jon Block, and we typically offer a reasonable flat rate for this service. We partner with our clients to ensure that transactions are handled thoroughly, efficiently, and economically.

Whether you are purchasing a yacht that calls in Newport and sails worldwide, or a barge to operate locally or internationally, Pierce Atwood has the capability to ensure that the transaction is smooth sailing.

Pierce Atwood’s maritime law attorneys represent New England marine construction, dredging and towage companies in connection with projects all over the world, and national, general construction companies when their 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 attorneys consult with the firm’s corporate and tax attorneys to provide clients with comprehensive solutions.

Pierce Atwood’s maritime law 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 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.

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

Representative Experience

When a Pierce Atwood client became concerned about collecting payment for fuel delivered to a troubled cruise ship/ferry owner trading between Maine and Nova Scotia, Pierce Atwood came up with a strategy for intervening in the case to assert a maritime lien based on a newly developed line of maritime case law – and within a week, the vessel owner settled the claim for nearly the full amount due.

Asserting Maritime Law to Collect Payment from Troubled Cruise Ship Owner

Obtained summary judgment for former vessel owner and aquaculture company, dismissing Jones Act and maintenance and cure claims.

Dismissal of Jones Act Claims

Our attorneys took leading roles in the drafting of local admiralty rules for the Rhode Island Federal District Court. The Judges of the United States District Court for the District of Rhode Island approved the rules and they went into effect on January 15, 2013.

Drafting of Local Rhode Island Admiralty Rules

Our attorneys represented an English marine insurer in coverage litigation relating to the capsize of a fishing vessel off Massachusetts.

Marine Insurer in Coverage Litigation

We are representing a recreational vessel owner in connection with post-fire investigation and claim coordination.

Recreational Vessel Owner in Post-Fire Investigation