Admiralty Law

Admiralty law

Attorneys at Law & Proctors in Admiralty

Farrell Smith O’Connell has accumulated over 70 years of wisdom practicing law plus 70 years as USCG licensed mariners. Unique among Maritime law firms, we all know the ropes in the courtroom, on the water, and on the waterfront. Our energetic track record and firm commitment is to represent our clients with world-class legal skill, providing smart advice and effective action while keeping our bills reasonable. With TWIC credentials we readily cover the New England, North Carolina and Virginia coastlines.

Defense of Maritime Insureds

  • Protection & Indemnification
  • Marine Pollution
  • Hull and Machinery
  • All Risk
  • USCG License Defense
  • Builder’s Risks and Ship Repairer’s Legal Liability

We have proudly focused on maritime insurance defense for four decades. On appointment by P&I Clubs and domestic insurers we routinely defend owners/operators of vessels ranging in size from VLCC oil tankers to jet skis, and all types of commercial, fishing, and recreational vessels in between. We routinely deal with collisions, allisions, sinkings, and groundings; wrongful death, personal injuries, and fake injury claims; fires, oil spills, and cargo damage. As well, we represent wharfingers, terminals and marinas, yacht clubs, vessel repairers, etc. A common theme in all of our case handling is the importance of on-scene attendance by the attorney as soon as possible in conjunction with marine surveyors and forensic experts. Recent changes in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provide new work-product safeguards for attorney/expert communications during the investigation and discovery — and with free communication comes better litigation strategy. There is no better way to know a case than for the attorney to oversee marshaling the evidence at the casualty scene, exchange it appropriately during discovery, offer and object to it at trial, and argue it on appeal. Passionate about our work and the importance of the maritime industry to the United States, we succeed in our cases because we are professional, experienced, and vigorous. This allows for intelligent legal advice and cost-effective case handling, enabling optimal value and results for our clients.


  • Bareboat
  • Time Charters
  • Voyage Charters

Our team has a broad knowledge on drafting charter agreements.  For example, tug and barges on time charter to assist with construction projects, support vessels chartered to Shell Oil for work in the Bering Sea, or Bareboat high speed ferries.  Of course, after the charter is complete, there are often times disputes that lead to litigation concerning the condition of the vessel upon redelivery or payment of charter hire.  We have successfully represented our clients in these types of matters.

Commercial Disputes and Arbitration

  • Vessel Repair and Construction
  • Salvage Contracts
  • Marine Products Liability
  • Marine Insurance Coverage

Contractual clauses requiring binding arbitration are common in vessel construction and maritime salvage disputes, among others. We have represented parties successfully before the Society of Maritime Arbitrators.  Our lawyers have served as arbitrators for the Boat U.S. Salvage Arbitration Plan as well as the Society of Maritime Arbitrators. We are also experienced in handling marine insurance coverage questions and interpretations of sometimes arcane policy language

Compliance Plan Counsel

  • US DOJ MARPOL/APPS Environmental Compliance Plan

Guidance for your US Department Of Justice Compliance Plan, FSO is uniquely equipped to provide your company with a one-of-a-kind legal service during your company’s Environmental Compliance Plan (“ECP”).  Attorney Liam O’Connell has served as USCG MARPOL/APPS Investigator, Court Appointed Monitor, ECP Auditor, Third Party Auditor, Internal Auditor, and an Expert Witness for US DOJ ECPs. Allow FSO an opportunity to provide legal counsel to your company and take advantage of all Liam’s experience so your ECP is both timely and successfully completed.

Click here to learn about our criminal defense and internal investigation practice.

Vessel Arrest

  • Maritime Lien Enforcement
  • Preferred Ship Mortgage Foreclosure
  • Rule B Attachment & Rule D Disputes

Civilized society has never come up with better leverage for prompt payment than the ancient procedure of arresting a vessel without notice.  We have used it over the years to great effect, for instance: arresting the NORTHWESTERN of Deadliest Catch fame for non-payment of an Aleutian Islands engine repair bill; foreclosing preferred ship mortgages on tug boats, fishing vessels, and yachts; and using Rule B to attach an LNG tanker in Boston because its breach of an English charter party did not give rise to a maritime lien authorizing a Rule C arrest.

Vessel Finance & Purchase

Vessel Finance & Purchase Whether it is bank or owner financed or a charter with option to purchase, the documents necessary to memorialize the parties’ agreement with respect to a vessel must be drafted clearly and in most cases recorded with either the National Vessel Documentation Center or a state’s boat registration division.  FSO has a great deal of experience with these types of transactions and can often provide guidance to handling complicated vessel financing matters.  Additionally, we can process and record all of the documentation associated with these transactions quickly, efficiently and most importantly cost effectively by not outsourcing it to a vessel documentation service.

Cargo & Transportation

Regulatory compliance, cargo claims, freight charge collection, and commercial litigation associated with ship, rail and truck transportation.  Bill of lading disputes are often successfully handled by our team.

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Serving New England, Virginia and North Carolina.


Available 24/7

FSO provides quality service with integrity and creativity. We tirelessly work towards commonsense solutions with attention to detail and the values necessary to advance our clients' interests. FSO invests the time to listen and better understand our clients' objectives in order to provide the best possible legal representation and strategy in a timely, cost-effective, and efficient fashion.