Contracts for Marine Business

Marine businesses face all of the same contract issues that other businesses face. Business partners have agreements about how to operate, businesess have agreements with their customers and suppliers, owners need agreements when there are significant purchases and sales. In the marine industry, like other specialized industries, there are also very specific types of agreements. Charter parties, riparian rights, dockage, wharfage, bills of lading, lease agreements for yard and shop space, hull insurance, errors and omissions coverage -- all of these have very specific connotations in the marine sphere.

Some agreements can be done on a handshake. However, those agreements that encompass significant amounts of money or whose performance is expected to take place over a significant period of time, are best to be put to writing. Many such contracts cannot even be enforced in court unless there is a writing signed by the party against whom enforcement is sought. You bought a $25,000 barge on handshake? Your deal is probably not enforceable.

There are three keys to drafting powerful agreements for marine businesses. First -- and this is a lot harder than one might imagine -- is to capture what has been agreed to and find out what has not been agreed to. If the basic term is $25,000 for the barge, this is fine, but when is payment due, when does title pass, who is responsible if the barge goes up in smoke before the deal is finished, and what law applies if there is a dispute that cannot be resolved? Second -- attorneys' need to know the history of the parties and the way things are done in the industry -- these are what is known as the "course of dealing" and "usage in trade." If two parties have always done something in a particular way, a court may consider this course of dealing in interpreting their contract. If an industry typically does something in a particular way, this may also affect the meaning of the contract. Third, an attorney needs to know whether it is better for a client to develop an agreement from scratch, or modify an existing form. Slip agreements are easy to fine tune -- but more complicated arrangments may need more individualized treatment. If you have a need for lease agreements, employee contracts, non-compete agreements, slip contracts, first preferred ship's mortgages, charter agreements, Crew contracts, or the like -- we can help. In many instances these can be custom prepared more quickly, accurately and efficiently than is possible by parties working themselves or using a Office Depot type form book.