J. Michael Cavanaugh advises shipowners, ocean carriers, cruise lines, financial institutions, logistics and supply chain management companies, railroads and intermodal carriers with respect to U.S. ocean shipping and shipbuilding legislative and regulatory matters, including Federal Maritime Commission (FMC), U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) and U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD) regulation relating to ownership, operation and financing of vessels and intermodal equipment.

Mr. Cavanaugh's recent engagements include:

  • advising financial institutions with respect to vessel construction, ownership, regulatory and vessel financing issues
  •  counsel to cruise lines doing business in the United States in regard to U.S. regulatory and legislative matters, and new cruise line U.S. startup activities
  • advising international operators of common carrier ferries and ferry terminals, including development of vessel design and construction agreements, vessel operation and marketing service agreements, and terminal leases with public ports authorities
  • representing foreign shipowners and operators on U.S. legislative and regulatory matters, including FMC regulation, Jones Act, Passenger Vessel Services Act (PVSA) and other cabotage restrictions and U.S. flag requirements
  • representing international supply chain management and integrated logistics companies and non-vessel operating common carriers (NVOCCs) in regard to ocean transportation legislative and regulatory issues, FMC licensing and tariff matters and corporate matters
  • advising applicants for U.S. licenses for development of deepwater liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals
  • representing offshore supply and dredging service operators on U.S. regulatory matters and legislation
  • member of Holland & Knight team that assisted in preparation of the World Bank's "Port Privatization Toolkit," including guidelines and model documentation for restructuring public ports and marine terminal facilities for commercial operation
  • advising ocean common carrier in negotiating terminals leases and financing transactions for large ocean container terminals and multimodal freight station

Before entering private practice, Mr. Cavanaugh served as attorney-advisor, Office of the General Counsel, U.S. Department of Commerce/Maritime Administration from 1974 to 1977 and was the agency's Great Lakes Region counsel from 1976 to 1977. He was responsible for vessel finance, ship construction and subsidy contracts, and litigation involving government contracts. He also represented the agency in regard to insurance, legislative, nuclear propulsion regulatory issues and international policy matters.

Mr. Cavanaugh is an adjunct professor teaching International Contracts at American University Washington College of Law.


  • Stanford Law School, J.D.
  • The Ohio State University, B.S., Behavioral Science, cum laude
Bar Admissions/Licenses
  • District of Columbia
Court Admissions
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Federal Claims
  • The Ohio State University, Political Science Department, Advisory Board, 2016-Present
  • Davis College Akilah, Kigali, Rwanda, Board of Directors, 2018-Present
  • American Bar Association, Antitrust Section
  • Maritime Law Association of the United States
  • Maritime Law Association of Singapore
Honors & Awards
  • The Best Lawyers in America guide, Admiralty and Maritime Law, 2021-2024
  • The Legal 500 USA, Transport: Shipping - Litigation and Regulation, 2021, 2022, 2024
  • Martindale-Hubbell AV Preeminent Peer Review Rated
  • Holland & Knight Pro Bono All-Star, 2020