Miller Nash Graham & Dunn has had an admiralty and maritime practice for over 100 years. It is one of the few larger “full-service” law firms to do work in this area.

The team co-chair in our Portland office, Chris Helmer, authored the U.S. law portion of Lloyd’s of London Press’s Arrest of Ships and teaches Admiralty at Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon. She previously taught International Dispute Resolution and Comparative Litigation. The team co-chair in our Seattle office, Jess Webster, has over 35 years of experience as a litigator and transactional attorney focused on fisheries and other maritime industries. Chris and Jess are recognized as Proctors in Admiralty and are active members in the Maritime Law Association of the United States. Chris is also active in the Maritime Committee of the International Bar Association. Our firm’s maritime lawyers have bar admissions in Washington, Oregon, California, Alaska, and Texas. Fluency in 16 foreign languages is available through the firm’s attorneys and staff. In particular, team member Merril Keane speaks and writes fluent Mandarin and team member Jesús Palomares is a native Spanish speaker.

Claims, Transactions, and General Shipping

Our firm represents a variety of ship owners, marine insurers, marine financing entities, offshore oil industry support contractors, international and domestic fuel companies, marine construction yards, yacht builders, exporting scrap yards, shippers, grain terminals, marinas, domestic and foreign fisheries, and other individuals and businesses in the marine industry. We have also worked with a number of privately owned marine terminals. Additionally, our attorneys have been regular correspondents for the London P&I Clubs for over 50 years.

Our attorneys currently serve as general counsel for the Port of Longview, and have been special counsel to the Port of Portland and the Port of Seattle for maritime, marine terminal and international contracting matters. Areas of our maritime work include the following:

  • Vessel arrests and attachments
  • Bills of lading, Incoterms 2010, letters of credit, and contracts of affreightment
  • Complex terminal agreements and marine construction contracts
  • Commercial vessel and yacht construction/repair contracts and dispute resolution
  • Ship financing, maritime liens, and preferred ship mortgages
  • Fishing rights transactions, including acquisitions, leases, harvesting agreements, and fisheries cooperative agreements
  • MARPOL protocol, APPS violations, and marine pollution events
  • Jones Act compliance for commercial freight and passenger vessels
  • Marine insurance coverage analysis, advice, and coverage litigation
  • Personal injury and death claims
  • Standard form international charter parties, and clauses
  • Tug, barge, and yacht charter parties
  • International ship and yacht registrations
  • Collision and allision claims
  • Grounding incident response
  • Maritime employment contracts and dispute resolution
  • Marine and shoreline environmental regulation and defense
  • Wreck removal, salvage, general average
  • Customs and export controls
  • Fisheries, commercial vessel, and yacht acquisition and sale
  • Defense of commercial fishing violation charges
  • Ship management agreements
  • Master service contracts

Quick Action

Maritime issues invariably require that work be done efficiently in a very short period of time. Oil spills, groundings, arrests and attachments, bill-of-lading issues, port problems, accident investigations, and almost all other maritime problems demand immediate action because something urgent has happened. And idle ships are expensive. Our team has accomplished arrests and attachments in less than a day. Releases of vessels from detention for MARPOL violations or from arrests and attachments have been equally promptly obtained.


Legal assistance with maritime issues often requires attorneys who are experienced with cross-border issues, foreign courts and tribunals, and international treaties. As active members of the Maritime Law Association of the United States and the London-based International Bar Association’s Maritime and International Litigation Committees, our maritime lawyers not only are familiar with international issues, foreign law, and cross-cultural approaches, but have a personal network of lawyers in every foreign commercial country who can be called on for immediate practical advice. Our maritime lawyers have handled arbitrations before the Society of Maritime Arbitrators, the London International Court of Arbitration, the Singapore International Arbitration Centre, the International Chamber of Commerce, the American Arbitration Association International Centre for Dispute Resolution, and other arbitral institutions.

Yachts and Recreational Boating

Members of Miller Nash Graham & Dunn’s maritime team have a wealth of experience in representing all segments of the yachting and recreational boating world, from small boat owners to superyacht builders. Our lawyers know the business of recreational boating and have the technical and business acumen to effectively represent yacht owners, repairers, and builders in the negotiation and drafting of contracts for the design, construction, conversion, and repair of recreational vessels. Because these projects do not always proceed as planned, we also represent owners, repairers, and builders in resolving vessel construction and repair disputes through mediation and, when necessary, arbitration or court proceedings. This experience informs and enhances our capabilities in representing clients during contract negotiations. We also regularly represent vessel buyers, sellers, owners, and charterers in the sale, purchase, and chartering of yachts of all sizes, the formation of legal entities for yacht ownership and operation, registration of yachts domestically or in foreign countries, taxation of recreational vessels, and regulatory compliance requirements. Our attorneys also serve the needs of developers, owners, and operators of commercial marinas.

Fishing Industry

Team co-chair Jess Webster has over 35 years of experience in representing individuals and companies involved in almost all segments of the commercial fishing industry. As a former oceanographer, Jess transitioned comfortably into representing clients with respect to all aspects of fisheries regulations, and has since represented crew members, vessel owners, vessel managers, fish buyers, seafood processors, aquaculture operations, seafood brokers, commercial seafood buyers, commercial lenders, shipyards, and other service providers to the fishing industry. Our team members have broad experience in providing guidance and representation through the regulatory processes, compliance with fisheries and environmental regulations, and the domestic and foreign purchase and sale of fisheries resources. We also represent clients in the negotiation and drafting of contracts for all manner of fisheries-related transactions, including for the acquisition and sale of commercial fishing vessels, fishing rights transactions, vessel charters, vessel construction, refit and repair contracts, and fishing industry finance. And we represent clients before administrative agencies and in the state and federal courts throughout the Pacific Rim in fisheries-related litigation, including defense of state and federal fisheries regulations and defense of forfeitures under the Lacy Act. Jess has also represented clients in foreign arbitration proceedings involving the international sale of fisheries resources.