Partner – CDG
T: +44 (0)20 8734 2806
What sort of clients do you advise? (buyers, yards, financiers etc)
My practice is based around marine construction and vessel acquisition projects. I act for owners and contractor yards on non-contentious projects such as newbuilding, conversion, refit, repair, second hand sale and purchase projects and “operational” matters such as management contracts and charters, involving all sorts of specialist tonnage including superyachts, naval and cruise vessels, offshore rigs and units. So I come at yachts as a specialist in those types of project rather than someone with a practice focused on yachting. As a result I tend to be involved with the large superyacht projects – acting for a small number of first class yards or the owners.
Our team also has marine finance lawyers who would cover any bespoke finance needs, though that is not my area. If disputes arise, I would usually stay involved until the stage at which it made sense for a lawyer from our contentious group to be involved to deal with any litigation or arbitration matter.
How did you end up in superyacht law?
Superyachts form an important part of, but by no means the whole of, my practice. As I mentioned above, I work on marine construction and acquisition projects generally. Having got into shipping at a large, international law firm (one of the UK “Magic Circle” practices), I was lucky enough to work with the key partner who covered the sector. I quickly identified that I wanted to work on commercial shipping matters, especially newbuilding, conversion, refit, etc and second hand sale and purchase projects as I mentioned above, so superyacht work was a natural adjunct to that. My first forays into the rarefied world of superyachts was in the late 1990s on a well-publicised unwind/sale of a large yacht project and shortly afterwards being involved in the construction contract for a prominent yacht. These were projects that were in the press at the time, the issues were challenging and the characters I encountered fired my interest in the sector…
What makes a good superyacht lawyer?
From what I see on the construction and acquisition side, in my view legal advisers to buyers need to have solid experience of shipbuilding and/or yacht construction projects and ship/yacht sales practice together with the willingness (and ability) to be involved in a wider role than they may traditionally be used to in any other shipping sector, especially in interacting with the owner’s other advisers.
What do you most like about your job?
There are some very flamboyant characters around the sector, so you never quite know what will arise on any given project! As a lawyer with a rather niche practice within the yachting sector, I enjoy these bespoke large yacht projects. The negotiations between the owners’ teams and the yards always raise a number of interesting points – rarely the same ones. These are some of the world’s wealthiest people contracting with the best shipbuilders around, so negotiations are never dull…
What one piece of advice would you give to potential yacht buyers?
Invest time and trouble to find the best people you can, whether broker, captain, crew managers, lawyer, tax adviser etc. Building a large yacht takes time, so you and your team will be working closely for a while.
Justin heads the transactional/non-contentious team at CDG and specialises in shipbuilding, conversion, refit and repair issues, acting for shipowners, offshore contractors and shipyards. He is routinely involved with the negotiation, drafting and related contract management of shipbuilding and conversion contracts involving most vessel and unit types, including LNG carriers, naval vessels, ferries and superyachts, as well as contracts (including EPC and EPIC contracts) for offshore procurement projects involving rigs, FPSO units, accommodation platforms and other specialised vessels in the sector, frequently accompanying clients abroad for contract negotiations.
Justin works closely with clients’ marine operations and technical management departments and advises on a broad range of resulting issues, including ship management agreements, the sale and purchase of second-hand tonnage and vessel demolition, chartering, transportation and installation (T&I) contracts, vessel deployment, and ship registration and deletion from all the major registries. He also has experience of public international law issues involving maritime matters, including freedom of navigation issues.
Justin contributes the chapter on the law in England and Wales to the annual Shipbuilding title from the Getting The Deal Through series published by Law Business Research, part of a range of publications providing comparative analysis of legal subjects across a number of relevant jurisdictions. He has also written widely on marine construction and refit topics, including forLloyd’s List, Superyacht Business, Shipbuilding Industry and Maritime Risk International and has lectured on shipbuilding and refit/conversion contracting and ship sale and purchase. He is currently serving as a member of the BIMCO committee responsible for the drafting of a standard form contract for the supervision of vessel construction.
Justin is a recommended lawyer in the Transport (Shipping) and the Projects, Energy and Natural Resources (Oil and Gas) sections of the 2014 UK edition of The Legal 500.