A qualified English barrister, Matthew Vafidis is a litigation attorney whose practice focuses principally on representing and counseling commercial clients, particularly in the maritime and transportation industry.

Mr. Vafidis has an active pro bono practice and he has served as a mediator, including for the U.S. District Court Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) program, for more than 30 years. Mr. Vafidis is an author of legal articles on dispute resolution, law practice and other topics, which are available on request.

Mr. Vafidis' representative engagements, and a selection of his trial, arbitration and investigation experience over the past 41 years of practice, are listed below.

Representative Experience

  • Federal Litigation: represented a U.S. company in successful defense of claim, for $9.2 million plus punitive damages, arising from cancellation of multiyear contract for certain specialized services; won summary judgment for the client shortly before federal jury trial set to begin; in related litigation for the same client, won dismissals of action for more than $10 million on personal jurisdiction grounds; led multioffice defense team
  • Commercial Arbitration: represented an aerospace company in commercial dispute arising from termination of contract to supply component for satellite
  • Insurance Litigation: represented wind farm operator in a federal court insurance coverage trial against an underwriter who issued a policy covering lost performance because of breakdowns of windmills
  • Environmental Issues: representing U.S. company in connection with decommissioning of offshore oil field and shore facilities, and related matters
  • Federal Litigation: represented individual and two U.S. 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
  • 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
  • Supply Chain Dispute: represented an Indonesian cotton mill in substantial claims against a U.S. cooperative based on alleged defects in cotton supplied
  • 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
  • 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
  • International Arbitration: represented a Canadian respondent in a $6 million international arbitration brought by a U.S. company arising from an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) supply and technical services agreement in connection with wireless products
  • 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

  • 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
  • Environmental Regulations: representing a U.S. ship owner and operator in connection with California state air resources regulations
  • Maritime Investigations: represented U.S. and foreign ship owners in multiple investigations relating to alleged misuse of oily water separator equipment
  • London Maritime Arbitration: represented a U.S. company in successful claim for more than $20 million due under financing terms of bareboat charter relating to two bulk vessels
  • Federal Litigation: represented multiple foreign ship owning and operating companies in action to enforce multimillion-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
  • Shipbuilding: representing a U.S. owner in connection with negotiation of shipbuilding contract and related matters
  • 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 U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit proceedings arising from a major marine pollution incident in the Middle East
  • Maritime Casualty: represented a U.S. ship owner in a multiyear 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
  • 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
  • Wrongful Death/Injury: represented foreign defendant 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 Matters: represented U.S. ship owner in connection with investigation and enforcement by federal agencies of alleged noncompliance with low sulfur fuel requirements
  • 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
  • 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 multiyear natural resource damage assessment from the initial baseline evaluation through eventual settlement, including negotiation of conservation easements and approved environmental projects
  • Marine Insurance: represented Lloyd's underwriters in multiple asbestos insurance coverage claims brought by the successor to a U.S. ship builder and repairer
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • Maritime Investigation: representing U.S. ship operator in connection with a U.S. Coast Guard-enhanced MARPOL investigation overseas arising from an allegation of misuse of a vessel oily water separator (OWS) equipment
  • Manning Statutes: represented U.S. ship owner and operator in connection with manning requirements for particular types of tank vessels, an issue of substantial importance for the industry


  • 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, former session Chair and Chair of the Seminar
  • Federal District Court ADR Panel
Honors & Awards
  • The Best Lawyers in America guide, Admiralty and Maritime Law, 2005-2024; Transportation Law, 2021-2024
  • The Best Lawyers in America guide, San Francisco Admiralty and Maritime Law Lawyer of the Year, 2020, 2024
  • The Legal 500 USA, Transport: Shipping - Litigation and Regulation, 2022, 2024
  • Who's Who Legal: Transport, Shipping, 2011, 2015-2018, 2020
  • Holland & Knight Pro Bono All-Star, 2020, 2021
  • Holland & Knight Public and Charitable Service All-Star, 2014
  • 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