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Yachting and marine law can be a complex area and whether you are a vessel owner, instructor, manager, or part of a crew, you need to ensure you protect yourself and your vessel.

LA Marine is the specialist marine law team at Lester Aldridge. Our friendly and approachable team of yachting lawyers take care of all the legal and business aspects of boat ownership and operation, helping to minimise the risks and saving you time and money.

With offices in close proximity to the insurance market in London and the heart of the yachting community on the South Coast we are in a great position to offer you expert legal advice on many aspects of marine law.

We are members of a number of industry federations and associations, including the British Marine Federation and the YBDSA, and are on the panel of legal advisors offering advice to members of the RYA. Several members of the team are also RYA members and hold RYA certificates of competency so we understand the practical issues as well as the legal ones.

How can our marine law solicitors can help you?

Selling or purchasing a yacht of any size and type can be a complex process, particularly if the yacht or either of the parties is not in the UK. Significant amounts of money will be involved and it is usual for a deposit to be paid at an early stage of the transaction, before a survey can be carried out. Parties to the transaction will be concerned that the deposit is held securely, that title documentation is in order and that any outstanding finance on the yacht will be settled at completion. Buyers will also be concerned to know that they can withdraw from the sale and get the deposit refunded if the survey is unsatisfactory. Our yachts & superyachts team of lawyers can advise you on all these issues and many more besides.

Yacht registration: We can handle the registration of your vessel for you, whether on the British Registry or a foreign flag. We will arrange a tonnage measurement survey, ensure title documents are sufficient and that the relevant forms are correctly completed and coordinate the registration process for you.

Yachts

Sale and purchase contracts: Whether you are buying or selling a yacht our marine solicitors can handle the transaction for you (even if there is a broker involved), including negotiating and advising on the sale agreement and advising on title documentation and VAT paid status. We can hold the deposit, the completion documents and completion funds as stakeholder and will co-ordinate and deal with completion and the release of any outstanding mortgages. We can also advise on the parties’ rights following the survey.

Brokerage contracts: If you are proposing to sell your yacht we can advise on the contract with the broker you engage to sell the yacht for you, whether that be on a sole agency or multiple agency basis.

Crew contracts: Our yachting lawyers can provide you with advice on contracts for the employment of skippers and crew if required.

New build and refit contracts: If you are intending to have a new vessel built for you or to have your vessel refitted we can advise you on the contract terms, the passing of title, stage payments, warranties, delay and any other issue of concern.

Charter contracts: If you wish to charter your vessel we can advise you on the terms of the charter agreement and the obligations and duties of the parties.

Management agreements: If you are going to engage a manager for your vessel our yachting lawyers can provide advice on the terms and conditions of the management agreement.

Marine finance: If you are proposing to obtain finance to assist with the purchase of your yacht we can advise you on the loan agreement and other facility and security documents. We can also accept appointment as your agents for service of proceedings if you are a non-UK resident and your lender requires you to appoint someone for this purpose as a condition of the loan.

Yacht ownership: we can advise on corporate structures, offshore or otherwise, established for the purposes of ownership of a yacht and on co-ownership agreements between joint owners of a yacht regulating the rights and obligations of each owner.

Marine casualties and admiralty

Here are just some of the areas we have expertise in:

  • Collision liability: advice on law and jurisdiction; liability under Collision Regulations/Racing Rules (as appropriate), provision of security, arrest and release of vessels;
  • Salvage: advice on requirements for salvage, salvage remuneration, provision of security and release of vessel;
  • Obtaining security: advice on how and when to obtain security for a claim, arresting vessels to obtain security, quantum, guarantee wording;
  • Limitation funds: advice on calculation of limitation, establishing a fund, when limitation applies and how it can be challenged.

Insurance and claims

Whether the loss you have suffered is insured or not, we can give you sound advice relating to all marine disputes and claims. Marine insurance comes with its own unique problems, and we know that dealing with claims and disputes in this area can be a challenging and frustrating process.

Our marine solicitors can help with a wide range of issues including:

  • Insurance coverage and policy advice – advice on the wording of insurance policies and coverage issues;
  • Negligence claims – assistance in relation to pursuing claims for losses suffered as a result of negligence, including claims against surveyors or designers, or against third parties in respect of collision damage (see Marine Casualties), including claims for uninsured losses (including any policy excess);
  • Breach of contract claims – advice in pursuing claims for losses suffered as a result of a breach of contract, including charter agreements, sale or purchase agreements, repair or refit contracts;
  • Advice in relation to defending claims being pursued against you, whether or not the matter is covered by an insurance policy.

Because incidents frequently take place in international waters or with vessels with foreign flags we have considerable expertise in working across jurisdictions together with our tried and tested network of foreign correspondent lawyers and other experts. It also gives us the ability to give you an early assessment of risks you might face, seek to minimize those risks and find the most cost effective outcome for you.

Personal injury and fatality claims

Our yachts and superyachts team can help, advise and act for yacht owners and their insurers in defending claims brought by crew or passengers on superyachts or leisure marine craft.

From the protocol stage through to trial we can provide the most appropriate legal advice. We have a great deal of experience in advising on all types of injury or fatality claims, both internationally and domestically and have dealt with many claims arising from racing collisions, jet skis collisions, propeller strikes and ‘kill chord’ incidents. We can represent interested parties at inquests.

Regulatory offences

We can help you if you or your skipper or crew are facing investigation or prosecution for breaches of Merchant Shipping Regulations, harbour byelaws or Collision Regulations. We are one of very few law firms with experience in this specialised area of law and can offer advice on possible defences, pleas and penalties. We can advise you during interviews under caution and represent you in the Magistrates courts or the Crown Court if the case goes that far.

Frequently Asked Questions

Yacht registration is not compulsory in the UK, although if you plan to take your yacht out of UK territorial waters you will need it to be registered on an appropriate register somewhere. Most of the providers of marine finance in the UK will require the vessel to be registered on Part 1 of the British Registry as a condition of the loan agreement. This is so that a mortgage can be registered against the vessel.

Part 1 of the UK Ship register is a full title register. This means that it is necessary to submit evidence of ownership of the vessel, stretching back at least 5 years in the case of a pleasure yacht, in order to prove that the person seeking to register the vessel is the legal owner of that vessel. Once a vessel is registered on Part 1 of the UK Ship Register a mortgage can be registered against the vessel.

Part 3 (also known as the Small Ship Register – SSR) is not a title register. It is not necessary to submit any evidence of ownership of the vessel in order to obtain a SSR certificate. Mortgages cannot be registered against a vessel on the SSR. The SSR certificate will however be sufficient to satisfy foreign authorities if the vessel is taken out of UK territorial waters.

Part 1 Registration lasts 5 years and must then be renewed. SSR Registration also lasts 5 years.

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Testimonials

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Solid group highlighted for its adept handling of both wet and dry shipping matters. Acts for owners on a range of issues with a particular focus on superyacht matters, such as collision liability, sale and purchase and contract negotiations. Also maintains a strong maritime personal injury and marine regulation practice. Clients include marine insurers, port authorities and yacht owners.
Clients say: "The team are always friendly and keen to help. They are extremely knowledgeable in all aspects of marine law and registration. We are very pleased to be working with this team of experts and value our working partnership."
Another client remarks: "They are very approachable and appreciate our business."
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Shipping - UK-wide
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The 'highly approachable' marine department at Lester Aldridge LLP provides a full service to shipping clients. The scope of its work includes assisting clients with the sale and purchase (and related financing) of yachts and superyachts, and also advice on sponsorship agreements and contracts. In addition, the group acts for clients in charterparty disputes, commodity disputes and security actions. It also handles investigations and prosecutions brought by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch/Maritime and Coastguard Agency for alleged regulatory offences Russell Kelly is the practice head.Close quote
Shipping: South East, ranked Tier 1
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Solid group highlighted for its adept handling of both wet and dry shipping matters. Acts for owners on a range of issues with a particular focus on superyacht matters, such as collision liability, sale and purchase and contract negotiations. Also maintains a strong maritime personal injury and marine regulation practice. Clients include marine insurers, port authorities and yacht owners.Close quote
Shipping: UK-wide
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Lester Aldridge LLP's shipping practice focuses on transactional, regulatory, arbitration and litigation work. Notable experience includes contractual, financing, construction, and racing yacht sponsorship advice, as well as charterparty, contract and commodity disputes, security actions, cargo claims, personal injury defence, yacht damage cases, merchant shipping regulation breaches and trade warranty issues.Close quote
Shipping: South East (Band 1)

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