Admiralty & Maritime

Admiralty & Maritime

With deep industry knowledge, and extensive regulatory and legal experience, Butler Snow’s Admiralty & Maritime team navigates clients seamlessly and cost effectively through difficult contract negotiations, regulatory investigations and contentious litigation.

Our team provides comprehensive counsel to a wide variety of clients, including the Charleston Branch Pilots Association, the Charleston Navigation Company, commercial shipping firms and agencies, vessel owners and operators, and domestic and international marine insurers in both the commercial and recreational sectors. We advise on everything from business dealings and day-to-day operations issues to regulatory compliance, government relations and risk management.

With a nuanced understanding of the industry, laws and regulations, our Admiralty & Maritime group excels at devising innovative solutions and crafting novel arguments to protect our clients’ interests. Our lawyers have achieved game-changing results for clients, resolving claims in federal and state courts as well as through arbitration, mediation and other forms of alternative dispute resolution. Members of our team also are experienced in representing clients before state, federal and international regulatory bodies, including the U.S. Coast Guard, the Department of Homeland Security, and the National Transportation Safety Board.

Our Approach

In each instance, we take a careful look at the client’s issues, concerns and goals. Then we match the client with the most skilled lawyers to serve that client’s specific needs. We pride ourselves on delivering outstanding timely service, innovative solutions and cost predictability. Always on the cutting-edge, our team stays current on the ever-evolving complex legal and compliance developments, which enables us to best help our clients optimize their operations and market position.

Further, our team is available 24-7, 365 days a year, to provide decisive legal counsel and crisis management advice in the event of a catastrophic accident or loss. We work closely with accident reconstruction experts, conduct witness interviews, gather data and take all necessary action to create a record and preserve the evidence needed to build the strongest defense for our clients.

Depth & Breadth of Experience

Our wide-ranging experience includes advising on and litigating disputes involving matters such as:

  • Vessel finance, purchases, registration and sales
  • Ship mortgages, maritime liens, arrests and attachments
  • Business transactions, including contracts of affreightment
  • Transportation of cargo and passengers
  • Allision, collision and grounding claims
  • Cargo loss and damage claims
  • Hazardous cargo and environmental claims
  • Regulatory compliance
  • Insurance-related matters including coverage, fraud claims, limitations on liability proceedings and recovery on claims
  • Charter activity issues
  • Personal injury, wrongful death actions and Jones Act claims
  • Product liability claims
  • Legislative advocacy

Further, we have extensive experience representing harbor pilots and are regarded as authorities on state pilotage rules, regulations and laws.


  • Saved the Charleston Navigation Company hundreds of thousands of dollars in property taxes by convincing the state legislature to declare that all pilot vessels are an arm of law enforcement and thus exempt from state property taxes.
  • Successfully defended a non-vessel-operating common carrier, Shipco Transport, against negligence allegations asserted by a shipper and its cargo insurer. The plaintiffs sought damages alleging that our client’s negligence in re-stowing of a drilling rig dockside resulted in losses. By convincing the court that the matter should be ruled under the Carriage of Goods by Sea Act (COGSA), we limited our client’s liability to just $500.00. The decision was upheld on appeal to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. Schramm, Inc. v. Shipco Transport, Inc., 364 F. 3d 560 (4th Cir. 2004).
  • Defended the owner/operator of a recreational vessel following a vessel “spinout” and ejection of the vessel operator and 8 passengers, two of whom died. Through careful investigation, we uncovered evidence that demonstrated the vessel’s inherent instability and persuaded the plaintiffs to amend their complaint to include the vessel manufacturer as a co-defendant. Thereafter, we were able to settle all claims within our client’s coverage limitation.
  • Represented individual pilot apprentice and full branch pilot as witnesses before the National Transportation Safety Board in the investigation of the Morning Dew incident when four people died after a grounding and subsequent sinking of a sailboat that hit the Charleston, SC jetties.
  • Represented multiple casino clients along the Mississippi Gulf Coast in numerous Jones Act litigation matters.
  • Defended a personal injury claim for a maritime accident involving the death of a passenger on a recreation boat which collided with another recreational boat on the Pearl River in Hancock County, Miss.
  •  Served on civil litigation teams that handled maritime matters including a personal injury matter by a non-Jones Act seaman.