Practice/Industry Group Overview
Our clients consist of major energy concerns, national and international oil and gas companies, large shipping entities, financial institutions, and project developers.
Maritime matters are critical to the successful planning and execution of global energy projects as well as commodity-based transactions, whether involving crude oil, finished or intermediate petroleum products or liquefied natural gas (LNG). Sutherland’s Energy and Environmental Group has the experience and capabilities to address such maritime matters in multiple settings.
Our areas of experience include:
- Shipping and Chartering
- Vessel Operations
- Vessel Vetting
- Marine Services
- Liability Risks
- Emergency Response
- Regulatory and HSE
- Insurance (P&I Interface)
- Customs and Trade
- Dispute Resolution
SHIPPING AND CHARTERING
Sutherland lawyers have substantial experience in drafting and negotiating charter party terms under many different scenarios, including bareboat, time and voyage charters. For example, we have advised regarding the amended Shelltime 4 charterparty as well as other “house” forms, and the development of StatoilTime1 charterparty and voyage orders for LNG vessels. We also have negotiated and drafted long term, dedicated, tug service contracts at several LNG terminals.
Efficient vessel operations are critical to optimizing the value of energy project assets, including accounting for port regulations, terminal access and offloading procedures, coordination with other vessels as well as marine support services and various product-specific considerations. Sutherland has extensive experience negotiating and drafting the rules and contracts that maximize the value of the subject energy assets, including prominently for multi-user LNG facilities.
Sutherland has assisted companies in developing detailed vessel and barge vetting programs, and the systems to implement such programs to maximize safety and to minimize the risk of liability as a result of a spill or other incident. We have assisted companies in developing careful protocols to assess any risks associated with the chartering of specific vessels for particular purposes around the world.
Our team is experienced in representing companies with respect to agreements for the provision of marine services to product vessels, such as tugs and barge services contracts. We have negotiated complex agreements for the sharing of such services among multiple users of a port or terminal under various use scenarios, including agreements for the construction and operations of tugs, barges and other vessels.
For nearly 20 years, Sutherland lawyers have worked closely with a number of multinational clients to develop and update internal programs to minimize the risk of oil and LNG spill liabilities for cargo owners and vessel charterers. We have made such assessments for most U.S. states, and with the aid of an international network of local firms, have provided similar advice with respect to some 100 countries. Our databank, knowledge and capabilities in this area are unmatched.
Our lawyers are very experienced in representing clients in the event of a vessel or terminal emergency, including participating in or conducting many oil spill exercises. We also advised cargo-owner clients in connection with spill events in the United States and in Europe. We have assisted clients in developing, documenting and updating emergency response plans.
REGULATORY AND HSE
Sutherland’s lawyers have significant experience in addressing compliance with various environmental, health and safety issues associated with marine transportation, particularly in North America. We have conducted exhaustive evaluations of the risks and gaps of employing a single set of compliance standards throughout different jurisdictions (for example North Sea standards in the Gulf of Mexico).
INSURANCE (P&I INTERFACE)
Our lawyers are familiar with the major P&I Clubs and have had significant experience in representing clients in connection with insurance coverage and related issues, working with P&I Clubs and their members.
CUSTOMS AND TRADE
Our lawyers handle international trade, regulatory and transaction tax matters affecting the trading of refined petroleum products and other energy commodities. We also have unique experience in addressing various customs issues in connection with the importation and exportation of petroleum products (mainly in the United States). In addition, we have capabilities in advising clients regarding laws that require use of domestically constructed or owned vessels for certain purposes (e.g., the U.S. Jones Act).
Our team has extensive experience in representing clients in maritime disputes, both in court and before arbitration panels. In England, lawyers at the firm have engaged in many court cases and arbitrations over the years, involving diverse maritime issues. In the United States, we have tried to verdict more than 100 maritime cases in state and federal courts in Texas, Louisiana and New York, and have handled many matters in arbitration and before administrative tribunals. In the traditional “blue water” maritime area, we have handled many cases involving the Carriage of Goods By Sea Act (COGSA), charterparty disputes and vessel seizures, as well as regulatory issues before the Minerals Management Service (MMS) and the U.S. Coast Guard.
- Provide drafting recommendations on bareboat, time and voyage charters, and handle charterparty disputes in court and arbitration proceedings.
- Advise oil major/charterer in relation to a dispute under an amended Shelltime 4 charterparty on, inter alia, period of off-hire of an LNG vessel due to delays following an incident involving possible crew incompetence resulting in LNG spillage/crack to the hull during the laden voyage.
- Successfully defended ship owner in an arbitration against charterer for breach of safe port/berth warranty under a time charter.
- Advise charterer/operator under an amended Shelltime 4 charterparty in relation to owner’s alleged failure to obtain/maintain oil major approvals, including the right to terminate.
- Negotiate and draft long term, dedicated, tug service contracts at several U.S. LNG terminals.
- Prepare and analyze marine provisions for commodity shipments by vessel and barge.
- Work closely with our clients regarding vessel utilization, scheduling, navigation and tug services.
- Draft comprehensive summaries of North American and European regasification terminal shipping, operations, and commercial considerations for trading arms of major international financial institutions.
- Draft detailed analysis for major foreign oil and gas client on Asian LNG markets and related commercial considerations.
- Advise marine shippers with respect to United States Coastwise Laws (the Jones Act) including documentation requirements, changes in American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) grades and in-line blending associated with the shipment, storage and blending of crude oil, petroleum products and chemicals.
- Advise clients on environmental and excise tax issues associated with shipping petroleum and other products.
- Coordinate filing applications for ship financing guarantees with the U.S. Maritime Administration.
- Actively participate in U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) proceedings to develop the first comprehensive, post 9/11, safety and security plan for a major LNG receiving terminal.
- Coordinate expert analysis of various petroleum and chemical samples in determining the proper Customs classifications under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States.
- Ongoing advice to major international oil and gas producer and trading arms of two major international financial institutions on emergency response planning and environmental liability issues related to energy products trading, including petroleum products, LNG, ethanol, and coal, under international and foreign law in Asia, Africa, America, North America, Oceania and South Europe.
- Detailed environmental liability assessments on LNG trading activities in United States and Europe for major multinational commodities traders.
- Advice on environmental and other liability issues related to LNG for shipping and trading clients, including LNG export issues, exotic tort theories, terrorist attacks, bunker fuel spills, and various potential federal statutory liability.
- Environmental assessments related to LNG storage at regasification terminals in North America and Europe.
- Advise clients in the development of barge and vessel vetting programs that assist them in chartering modern, safe barges and vessels with high quality ownership and crews. Develop protocols for the long-term leasing of shore-side and floating storage tanks.
- Defend complex dispute involving loss of oil production and area damage provisions of an insurance policy for a major oil and gas producer.
- Appeal and argue before the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals complex issues about indemnity and additional insured status.
- Represent a major provider of international and domestic contract drilling services in connection with environmental damage recovery for alleged coastline pollution.
- Represent an insured in USCG, MMS and insurance disputes following loss of multiple drilling rigs after hurricanes.
- Defend a vessel seizure case in Norway involving an American flag vessel sold at foreclosure and re-documented with the USCG.