Maritime Casualty, Pollution and Salvage

  • Holland & Knight’s Maritime Team represents clients in a wide range of casualty matters, including vessel loss or damage; natural resources and other environmental damage; and product liability, personal injury and death claims.
  • With offices located on every United States coast, in the Middle East and Latin America – together with our network of national and foreign correspondent counsel – we are positioned to assist you in any casualty matter around the globe.
  • When a maritime casualty or environmental incident occurs, our 24-hour Rapid Response Team will immediately mobilize anywhere in the world to protect your interests and pursue the most favorable outcome possible.
Cargo Ship


Holland & Knight’s Maritime Team represents shipowners, manufacturers, insurers and other maritime industry defendants in all facets of casualty litigation, including liability and limitation actions, collisions, environmental spills and "magic pipe" oily water separator inquiries, product liability issues, serious personal injury, wrongful death and occupational disease claims. We use a multidisciplinary approach that allows us to quickly and effectively respond to every matter, whether it is an emerging crisis or routine due diligence. Many of our team members have practical experience in the maritime industry following their service as officers in the U.S. Navy, Merchant Marine and U.S. Coast Guard.

Immediate Support Anywhere in the World

Major casualties frequently involve complex, multijurisdictional litigation in which early positioning is essential to achieve the most favorable outcome. When significant maritime casualties or environmental incidents occur in the United States or elsewhere in the world, our Rapid Response Team is available around the clock to represent you in the initial investigation and assist you in managing all of the legal issues that ensue. Working with a strong network of foreign lawyers, we are prepared to immediately respond wherever needed by mobilizing a multilingual task force of experienced lawyers that is appropriate to the magnitude of the casualty.

Rapid Response Team After-Hours Telephone Numbers

Broad Experience for Comprehensive Service

Our team of maritime attorneys works together to protect your interests from initial response to successful conclusion and every step in between. We regularly investigate and provide counsel in a wide range of casualty matters, including:

  • vessel loss, property damage, HAZMAT violations and related governmental investigations 
  • natural resources and other environmental damage
  • product liability, personal injury and death claims

We have extensive experience in every aspect of these matters, from managing investigations (including conducting crew interviews, retaining key experts and assessing critical discovery-related issues such as electronic discovery) to establishing crisis management teams that handle environmental responses and high volume claims. In addition, we handle large-scale single claims, defend clients against criminal pollution complaints, assist in seeking compensation from the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund and represent clients in government hearings and litigation.

Balancing Technical Understanding and Legal Knowledge

Our maritime law attorneys have served as lead counsel in casualty cases around the world, including matters resulting from collisions, groundings, scuttlings and environment damage caused by vessels. We likewise have handled numerous cases regarding a classification society’s role in connection with a vessel’s seaworthiness.

Our team is well-positioned to succeed in such matters because we have an effective balance of attorneys who are well-versed in vessel engineering, operation and navigation, as well as attorneys who are intimately familiar with the statutory or international convention schemes for recovery or defense of direct claims, cross-claims, insurance disputes and indemnification/subrogation matters.

Maritime Personal Injury Defense

Casualty cases are often litigated in multiple international jurisdictions and our team has significant experience in coordinating and cooperating in such matters. When a death or injury occurs, we collaborate with the firm’s personal injury defense attorneys to resolve the matter in the most favorable manner possible. When necessary, we also work closely with firm attorneys who have significant experience in class actions, product liability and mass tort litigation.

Representative Cases

  • M/V CHAMPION EXPRESS: Alleged incident (or close passing) of a replica Chinese Junk, the S/V Princess Taiping and the M/V Champion Express in international waters off the coast of Taiwan. Our team coordinated the multijurisdictional litigation, personal injury and property damage claims as well as issues regarding limitation of liability.
  • S/Y ESSENCE/M/V BARKALD: Collision on the Long Island Sound. Our team defends the owner of a commercial vessel and the P&I insurer with regard to death and personal injury claims by crewmembers of a sailing yacht against the commercial vessel.
  • ATHOS I: Oil spill caused when the vessel struck a large submerged anchor while preparing to dock at a refinery in Paulsboro, New Jersey. The anchor punctured the vessel's bottom resulting in the discharge of approximately 265,000 gallons of crude oil into the Delaware River and nearby tributaries. Our team represented clients before the National Pollution Fund Center who were seeking compensation for their multimillion dollar claims for removal costs and other OPA compensable damages.
  • PRESTIGE: Tanker sank in the Exclusive Economic Zone of Spain, causing pollution damages over $1 billion. Our team represented the foreign sovereign nation to pursue its claims against the ship’s classification society, and to defend the government's response to the oil spill pursuant to its National Contingency Plan. The litigation addressed important issues of federal maritime law and limits on the application of the Civil Liability Convention.
  • ZIEMIA LÓDZKA/VERTIGO: Collision in Great Belt in Danish waters. Our team represented the owners of ZIEMIA LÓDZKA in U.S. litigation involving cargo claims against both vessels and mediated collision fault between the vessels.
  • M/V PACIFIC: Our team is representing the purchaser of the cruise ship featured in the television program “The Love Boat” for claims against the seller, ship management company and classification society arising from the poor condition of the vessel at sale and the resulting multimillion dollar damages suffered.
  • TRICOLOR/KARIBA: Collision in English Channel. At the first trial, our team obtained a total victory for Tricolor interests. Judge Baer exonerated Tricolor and a third vessel, the Clary, placing 100 percent of the fault on Kariba. The case was appealed to the Second Circuit, which upheld significant legal rulings such as application of the 1910 Collision Convention and non-application of the Pennsylvania Rule. After remand and another favorable ruling, the matter was appealed again to the Second Circuit where a decision is pending.
  • ING 4727: Cement barge landed on the dry side of the levee in an industrial canal as a result of Hurricane Katrina. Our team represented the facility owner in conducting on-site investigations, hiring experts and collecting key evidence that would have otherwise been lost with the subsequent passage of Hurricane Rita.
  • Barge EMC 423: Cargo oil barge explosion in Cicero, Illinois. Our team represented the interests of a major refinery in five weeks of USCG hearings, conducted an internal investigation and responded to governmental subpoenas in subsequent litigation.
  • Barge B-125: Gasoline barge explosion in Staten Island, New York. Our team represented the charterer of the barge in USCG hearings and in court, and worked with the facility owners' lawyers to achieve a $25 million settlement for facility damages. Our lawyers also participated in discovery proceedings for the governmental of CWA fines and penalties from the oil spill.
  • AMERICAN TRADER: Hull penetrated while mooring at Huntington Beach, California, sea berth resulting in spill of approximately 5,000 barrels of Alaska North Slope crude. Our team provided advice and assistance to local counsel and participated in related ICC arbitration with charterers. We were retained to represent the owner in the trial for apportionment of damages against the charterer (cargo owner) and the terminal interests. We also defended the owner in a vigorously contested class-action litigation with commercial fisherman and local business owners.
  • Barge TEXAS: Casualty involving $30 million claim for Subsea Cable damages due to anchor-drag incident. Our team represented the vessel's P&I insurers in obtaining a contribution from the hull insurers for damages payments made to the cable owners.
  • BONA FULMAR: Gasoline tanker collision in fog in English Channel. Our team represented the ship owner in U.S. litigation, resulting in the favorable settlement of all claims filed in the United States.
  • NAN SHAN: Alleged oil pollution and illegal oily water separator by-pass. Our team represented client in the criminal investigation by the USCG and U.S. Attorney, EDNY. The matter was adjourned with no charges filed after intervention by our maritime and criminal defense attorneys.
  • M/V COMMAND: Oil pollution from vessel hull leak near San Francisco. Our team represented client in plea bargain and maritime compliance issues.


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