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An increasingly complex set of state, federal and international laws and regulations governs the maritime industry. These complexities as well as market conditions pose challenges and present opportunities for our maritime clients.

Sheppard Mullin’s maritime attorneys have the experience and know-how to handle virtually every maritime legal issue. We know finance and corporate matters as well as international agreements, arbitration and litigation. The firm draws on a wide range of other capabilities to serve its maritime clients. These include antitrust counseling and litigation, insolvency, environmental compliance and litigation, finance, criminal defense and government-contract counseling and litigation.

We represent clients in the major sectors of the maritime industry, including vessel owners and operators (including some of the world’s largest steamship lines, shipyards, large corporations that own, operate and lease out maritime assets), and domestic and foreign asset-based finance companies. From blue-water ocean shipping to inland tug and barge operations to the offshore oil industry, we advise clients on the legal aspects of their affairs. We also have extensive experience in legal issues affecting state-owned entities.

Our understanding of the complex issues affecting the maritime industry extends beyond what we’ve gleaned from working as legal counsel to clients. We have experience on the business side of the maritime industry. Charles Donovan teaches maritime law as a member of the adjunct faculty at the University of Southern California Law School.


Sheppard Mullin attorneys represent shipping companies, vessel operators, shipyards, official creditors’ committees, and individual creditors, including many multinational companies, in connection with all aspects of maritime insolvencies. Our representations include reorganizing and liquidating maritime companies, prosecuting maritime-related claims in insolvency proceedings, defending and prosecuting preference claims, negotiating charters, leases and other agreements with financially distressed companies, and selling and purchasing marine equipment, ships, shipyards, ship terminals, drilling platforms, dry docks, ferries, and vessels of all types involving insolvent companies. These matters are often cross-border and arise in non-U.S. insolvency proceedings as well as in chapter 11 bankruptcy cases in the U.S.

Legislation and Regulation

Sheppard Mullin attorneys represent maritime clients before the U.S. Congress and federal agencies such as the U.S. Coast Guard, the Federal Maritime Commission, the Maritime Administration, the Department of Transportation, and other agencies whose decisions affect the maritime industry. We obtain numerous regulatory approvals for our clients, file comments in rulemaking proceedings, and obtain statutory changes to the domestic vessel financing statutes and documentation/manning requirements of the U.S. Coast Guard. We also represent clients in obtaining annual appropriations for the maritime cargo preference programs under the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture and the Agency for International Development. Our attorneys helped draft maritime legislation currently in force.

Litigation and Arbitration

We handle maritime litigation and arbitration, all over the globe. We prepare, prosecute and defend claims under Navy, Coast Guard, and private ship construction contracts. We also defend False Claims Act claims brought against major ship construction companies. We act for clients in both business and casualty-related disputes. Clients turn to us for Jones Act negligence and seaworthiness matters involving personal injury to employees, collision with other vessels, charter disputes, personal injury, stranding/wreck removal, oil spills – essentially every type of operational difficulty an owner can experience. We have experience in complex contentious business matters pending simultaneously in several different countries and involving legal issues arising under the laws of more than one nation.

Maritime Business and Finance

We handle maritime business transactions that include acquisitions, contracts, financing and tax matters, charters, and equipment lease agreements. We represent maritime clients and provide advice on: maritime loan and sale leaseback transactions; domestic and foreign ship construction contracts; Title XI guaranteed ship financing transactions; MARAD approval of foreign transfers of Jones Act vessels; and domestic, foreign and joint-venture vessel ownership and vessel operating agreements and structures. We have experience negotiating international agreements. Our lawyers have held positions of leadership in the American Bar Association, International Bar Association, the Union Internationale des Avocats and the Maritime Law Association of the United States.