With over 2,000 lawyers in offices across five continents, K&L Gates is among the few large global law firms with a far-reaching maritime practice. We bring our deep knowledge of the industry, cross-practice capabilities, and international presence to all aspects of the maritime industry.
K&L Gates offers the U.S. and international maritime industry comprehensive legal, transactional, legislative, and regulatory capabilities. Our combined knowledge and experience are valuable assets for any business or association in the maritime industry. Our global presence allows us to offer our services wherever our clients’ needs may arise. The breadth of our experience is reflected in the geographic span of our work and in our understanding of the maritime industry as a business. We help our clients manage risk and achieve their goals.
Our maritime practice dates back more than four decades. Today, the group represents all major sectors of the maritime industry—vessel owners, operators, managers, underwriters, shippers, terminal operators, liquid and dry bulk, liquefied natural gas, container, roll-on/roll-off, passenger and/or cruise, and specialized vessels, such as offshore drilling units, power-generating barges, tugs, mobile offshore drilling units, offshore supply vessels, dredging, dive support, pipe and cable laying, fishing, and recreational boats. Our maritime clients include vessel owners and operators, underwriters, ports, marinas, energy companies, shore facilities, shipyards, investment and financing entities, industry groups and associations, as well as shippers, commodities traders, and others with maritime-related needs.
Through our work for clients, we are actively involved in all aspects of maritime-related matters, including traditional maritime issues such as collisions, groundings, charter party disputes, cargo damage, hull and machinery, product liability, and personal injury, as well as commercial litigation; criminal defense; environmental compliance; ship sale and purchase; shipbuilding, repair, conversion, and construction matters; and U.S. legislation and rulemaking. Our maritime group is especially skilled at handling complex international maritime arbitrations, mediations, adjudications, and other forms of alternative dispute resolution. We also regularly represent clients before congressional committees, the Maritime Administration (MARAD), the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC), the Coast Guard (USCG), the Department of Defense (DOD), Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and other executive branch agencies in the United States and abroad.
Our lawyers are also well-recognized as leaders in the field of maritime environmental issues, including defending ship owners, operators, managers, charterers, and crewmembers in matters involving civil fines and penalties and/or criminal prosecution of environmental regulations, such as International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL), Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS), Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA), and the Clean Water Act (CWA). Our lawyers have been involved in most major oil spills in the United States over the last 25 years, and are practiced in dealing with governmental authorities, clean-up efforts and issues, third-party claims arising out of spills, civil and criminal defense of clients, federal and state trustees, National Resource Damage Assessments and resolution of claims, and the filing and successful handling of claims with the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund.
Our attorneys also advise regarding vessel construction contracts, credit agreements, secured vessel financing, project financing, leveraged lease transactions, international structured financial transactions, and public financing of maritime projects. We have represented clients in complex cross-border disputes relating to pooling, competition, and consortium issues, including regulatory control by port states, class, flag states, distressed shipping debt funds, and ownership and management structures.
Additionally, the scope of our services and capabilities enables the maritime group to seamlessly assist clients with most, if not all, of their legal service needs, such as insurance coverage issues, labor and employment matters, real estate transactions, construction law, and international transactions of every form. K&L Gates’ maritime practice takes a variety of forms to suit the requirements and goals of our global clients. Our cross-practice work involves all issues faced by maritime interests, including:
Many of our maritime group’s professionals have direct knowledge of, and experience in, maritime matters developed through their involvement with the maritime industry, including the U.S. Navy, U.S. Merchant Marine, and USCG. As reinforced by that experience, our maritime practice includes coverage of all of the traditional admiralty matters. Examples include:
Our lawyers have completed a wide range of maritime transactions, including acquisitions of major shipping companies and several of the largest maritime financings in the United States in recent years. We also provide advice on and negotiate vessel construction contracts (including complex cruise ship contracts valued at $400 million each), credit agreements, secured vessel financings, project financings, leveraged lease transactions, international structured financial transactions, and public financing of maritime projects. Many of our financings involve multiple states and countries. We also represent creditors and borrowers in restructuring transactions and bankruptcy proceedings (including multi-jurisdictional proceedings) involving maritime interests. Our lawyers have advised large shipping concerns on corporate and vessel-specific tax structuring. Our capabilities in these areas are very broad.
We frequently deal with high-profile, high-stakes commercial disputes, and have a track record of obtaining successful results in cases with regional, national, and international significance. Our firm is involved in complex commercial litigation and arbitration worldwide, including both non-administered arbitrations and arbitrations administered by the leading arbitration institutions, with the subject matter of disputes spanning a broad range of sectors, ranging from maritime disputes to Middle Eastern property investment to Latin American offshore oil extraction to complex insurance coverage disputes. Maritime arbitrations have included disputes regarding shipbuilding contracts, marine insurance, oil and gas, and international sale of goods and/or trade finance. Our dispute resolution capabilities are extensive.Examples include:
We have provided counsel to various public and private interests involved in shoreside maritime operations, including ports, facilities, and operators. This has included financing, project development, regulatory matters, labor, and compliance issues. Examples include:
Our lawyers have broad-based experience in the entire spectrum of maritime safety and environmental matters, including prevention and compliance issues, as well as administrative, civil, and criminal defense. The maritime industry has never been more regulated and the industry is currently facing, and will face in the years ahead, the most complex safety and environmental regulatory changes in its history. These new, complex regulatory requirements present an unprecedented set of new risks for the industry.
These issues are of central importance to our clients due to the increasing legal complexities and serious consequences of noncompliance, including criminal exposure for companies and their officers, shoreside employees, and vessel crews. We have assisted clients in developing effective compliance programs and systems, both preemptively and following specific incidents, including government investigations and court-ordered compliance. We help clients anticipate and avoid problems before they impede objectives or result in costly litigation. Our lawyers routinely conduct internal investigations of potential violations and have successfully negotiated with authorities to avoid prosecution on numerous occasions, including through the use of voluntary disclosure programs.
In cases of alleged non-compliance, we routinely represent and advise clients at every stage of an investigation, from the initial boarding and inspection of a vessel, in the aftermath of any vessel detention that results, and, if the case is referred for criminal prosecution, during any subsequent grand jury investigation. When necessary, we forcefully and effectively litigate problems that cannot otherwise be resolved and have successfully defended a number of owners, operators, and crewmembers through trial in both criminal prosecutions and in civil fine and penalty cases. In the United States, we have represented individual clients or coalitions before the U.S. Congress, the administration, and numerous executive branch agencies, such as the USCG, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the U.S. Department of Justice. We routinely represent clients on matters related to the development and enforcement of international conventions, U.S. law, and federal regulations. Our maritime and environmental compliance and defense capabilities are comprehensive, and our lawyers are routinely deployed throughout the U.S. immediately, at any time, to meet the needs of our clients. Examples include:
Decisions made by governments and international bodies around the world have a tremendous effect on the maritime industry. K&L Gates’ Public Policy and Law practice represents maritime interests before the U.S. Congress, the administration and its executive branch agencies, various state governments and agencies, and non-U.S. governments and entities. We work closely with our clients to understand and achieve their business and policy goals. Maritime group professionals have years of experience in legislative and executive branch agencies, which helps us to understand the complex issues affecting the maritime industry nationally and internationally, and to provide our clients with effective and creative solutions to legislative, administrative, and judicial issues. We assist clients in presenting effective responses to government initiatives, both regulatory and legislative, in all matters affecting the industry. Coastwise laws, vessel documentation, customs duties, maritime promotional programs, export restrictions, antitrust analysis of the industry, tax matters affecting maritime clients, and many other issues are routine matters for the maritime group.
We represent clients before the U.S. Congress, the European Commission, World Trade Organization, U.S. Trade Representative, the U.S. International Trade Commission, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Departments of Commerce and Treasury, and various administrative and executive branch agencies and federal courts on matters related to regulation of trade, U.S. trade policy, allegations of illegal subsidies, and customs duties.
With the increasing severity and scope of potential violations that can face maritime clients, the maritime group includes significant resources skilled in conducting internal investigations for companies and other entities. Included among the resources available to clients for such investigations are a former U.S. attorney general, former senior officials of the European Union, and many former senior officials of domestic and international governmental agencies. We recognize the importance of moving quickly, gathering the facts, and seeking quick, constructive engagement to prevent criminal or civil charges from being filed by convincing a regulator or prosecutor at the earliest stage possible that an enforcement action is not appropriate. If an action cannot be avoided and settlement is not practical, our enforcement lawyers vigorously fight any charges or claims that may be brought against our clients and they have handled a wide range of grand jury or other governmental investigations and resulting litigation in court and administrative proceedings.
We also advise domestic and international maritime clients on compliance with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), its international counterparts, and numerous other international trade and export control issues. In these areas, as well as many others, our ability to integrate lobbying and regulatory compliance allows us to work with clients who want to change, as well as comply with, restrictions governing their business arrangements.
Consistent with our cross-practice capabilities, our maritime practice is complemented by our product liability and consumer litigation capabilities. This allows us to provide recreational boating clients with comprehensive representation on all matters they may encounter.