Matthew Vafidis is a litigation partner and a qualified English barrister whose practice focuses on business disputes, counseling and investigations, where he acts for a range of commercial clients, particularly in the maritime and transportation industries. Mr. Vafidis' representative engagements and trial, arbitration and mediation experience are listed below.


  • London Maritime Arbitration: represented a U.S. company in successful claim for over $20 million due under financing terms of bareboat charter relating to two bulk vessels
  • Federal Litigation: represented individual and two transportation companies in post-trial proceedings regarding proposed amendment of $22 million judgment in federal action, and related litigation
  • Government Claim: represented contractor in claim against U.S. Government agency before the Civilian Board of Contract Appeals arising from termination of contract for air transportation
  • Federal Litigation: represented multiple foreign ship owning and operating companies in action to enforce multi-million dollar judgment, and achieved dismissal of action on personal jurisdiction and related grounds
  • Arbitration: represented a sub-charterer in maritime arbitration of a $27 million lost profits claim arising from the head owner’s restrictions on permitted cargoes in the liner trade
  • Admiralty: represented a vessel owner in a leading federal admiralty case establishing law relating to liens on cargo for non-payment of freight
    Insurance Litigation: appeared for a wind farm operator in a federal court insurance coverage trial against an underwriter who issued a policy covering lost performance due to breakdowns of windmills
  • Marine Casualty: represented a foreign owner and operator of a container ship in marine casualty resulting in massive container stow breakdown and loss of cargo at sea
    Collision and Marine Pollution: represented the owner and operator of a car carrier in a federal action arising from a collision resulting in the sinking of another vessel and marine pollution off the California coast
  • Marine Pollution: successfully defeated claims against a foreign vessel owner on the basis of a lack of personal jurisdiction in federal District Court and Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals proceedings arising from a major marine pollution incident in the Middle East
  • Aircraft Litigation: represented a foreign aircraft owner in a federal action against U.S. underwriters and an appeal arising from confiscation of aircraft by a foreign government
  • Maritime Casualty: represented a U.S. ship owner in a multi-year federal trial arising from a major oil spill and cleanup in Los Angeles Harbor
  • Vessel Fire: investigated a major ship fire in the engine room of a cruise vessel off the Panama coast
  • Supply Chain Dispute: represented an Indonesian cotton mill in substantial claims against a U.S. cooperative based on alleged defects in cotton supplied
  • Oil Pollution Litigation: investigated and provided legal coordination of the response to an oil pollution incident arising during oil cargo discharge operations at a refinery in Northern California
  • Bankruptcy Rights: represented a U.S. non-vessel operating carrier and freight forwarder in multiple claims arising from the bankruptcy of a major U.S. department store chain
  • Vessel Fire: investigation and representation of a ship owner and operator at public hearings arising from a serious engine room fire on a cruise vessel in Alaska
  • Oil Spill Litigation: represented a foreign ship owner and operator in a major oil spill investigation worldwide, federal criminal proceedings involving indictments, and settlements of federal and state civil and environmental claims
  • Contract Dispute: represented a healthcare district in a federal declaratory relief action to compel a financing company to sell hospital property to the district under the terms of a complex financing arrangement
  • Coast Guard Investigation: appealed, on behalf of a foreign ship owner, U.S. Coast Guard actions ordering detention of a tanker after an investigation in the Pacific Northwest
  • Oil Pollution Litigation: represented a responsible party in coordinating the legal response to an oil pollution incident in Northern California, defending related federal and state litigation and multi-year natural resource damage assessment from the initial baseline evaluation through eventual settlement, including negotiation of conservation easements and approved environmental projects
  • Maritime Insurance: represented Lloyd’s underwriters in multiple asbestos insurance coverage claims brought by the successor to a U.S. ship builder and repairer
  • Antitrust Claims: represented a U.S. company against federal antitrust claims arising from the termination of the agent and establishment of an affiliate relating to after-market inspection and maintenance of the company’s products in the Southern California market
  • Maritime Arrest and Attachment: in multiple instances, represented foreign owners or charters of a vessel in U.S. maritime arrest and attachment proceedings, including to secure maritime arbitration claims in London
  • International Arbitration: represented a Canadian respondent in a $6 million international arbitration brought by a U.S. company arising from an OEM supply and technical services agreement in connection with wireless products
  • Cargo Litigation: handled multiple cargo cases and trials, including defending a foreign ship charterer in an oil cargo shortage trial and District Court proceedings and appeals of cargo actions
  • Coast Guard and NTSB Hearings: represented a U.S. company in a major investigation and Coast Guard/National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) hearings arising from a marine casualty involving an oil drilling unit in Alaska
  • Finance Litigation: represented an individual and company in a state court action and jury trial arising from a multimillion dollar real estate loan and personal guarantee
  • Environmental Litigation: represented a major U.S. corporation in a multiple plaintiff federal action alleging responsibility for groundwater contamination in a Northern California rural residential area
  • AAA Arbitration: represented a Chinese corporation in AAA arbitration with a parking company over the covenant attaching to Los Angeles hotel property
  • ICSID Proceedings: represented a U.S. company in an action to collect a multimillion dollar International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) award against an African nation and attachment proceedings against oil companies
  • Contract Dispute: represented a resort developer and owner in a state court action against a resort operator arising from under indemnity provisions of the property management agreement
  • Coast Guard Investigation: represented a U.S. ship owner and operators in connection with a U.S. Coast Guard investigation and actions involving manning and operation of articulated tug barge units
  • Admiralty Subject Matter Jurisdiction: represented a Canadian boat builder in multiple plaintiffs’ claims for death and personal injury in a federal action that included victory for the client in a major decision regarding admiralty subject matter jurisdiction
  • State Litigation: successfully defeated substantial claims for recovery of a foreign judgment against a group of foreign companies based on personal jurisdiction and service of process grounds
  • Government Claim: representing contractor in a claim against a U.S. Government agency arising from a dispute over the role of a vessel manager in connection with the condition of a government vessel
  • Environmental Advice: representing and advising a major company in connection with several environmental issues relating to California property, including advice regarding CEQA and NEPA, and decommissioning liability for facilities
  • Maritime Investigation: representing a ship operator in connection with a USCG-enhanced MARPOL investigation arising from an allegation of misuse of a vessel OWS equipment


  • Cambridge University, M.A., History and Law, with honors
  • Inns of Court School of Law, London, Barrister
Bar Admissions/Licenses
  • California
  • England and Wales
Court Admissions
  • European Circuit of the Bar of England and Wales
  • All State Courts in California
  • All Federal Courts in California
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
  • San Francisco Bar Association
  • Maritime Law Association of the United States
  • ABA Young Lawyers Division Admiralty Committee, former Chair
  • San Francisco Bar Association Admiralty Committee, former Chair
  • Pacific Admiralty Seminar committee, former session Chair and Chair of the Seminar
  • Federal District Court ADR Panel
Honors & Awards
  • Who's Who Legal: Transport, Shipping, 2011, 2015-2018, 2020
  • Holland & Knight Public and Charitable Service All-Star, 2014
  • The Best Lawyers in America guide, San Francisco Admiralty and Maritime Law Lawyer of the Year, 2020
  • The Best Lawyers in America guide, Admiralty and Maritime Law, 2005-2020
  • Chambers USA – America's Leading Business Lawyers guide, Transportation: Shipping: Litigation (outside New York), 2008-2015
  • Northern California Super Lawyers magazine, 2006-2019
  • Guide to the World's Leading International Trade and Shipping Lawyers, Legal Media Group's Expert Guides, 2015
  • Guide to the World's Leading Shipping and Maritime Lawyers, Legal Media Group's Expert Guides, 2012, 2015 
  • The International Who's Who of Shipping & Maritime Lawyers , 2009
  • Martindale-Hubbell AV Preeminent Peer Review Rated


Speaking Engagements