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1965 built, US flagged steamship Pacific Tracker lays at the ready in Portland Oregon, picture by Martin Leduc

The Advocate

Informing Marine Engineers about legal matters

Darren Williams is a Barrister and Solicitor (Lawyer) specializing in Admiralty Law, which has jurisdiction over most maritime matters. Darren has worked extensively on the water as well as in the courtroom. He is based out of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, practicing at the Law Firm of "League & Williams".

On this webpage, he brings us timely and relevant articles on the legal aspects of being a Marine Engineer in today's world. Although the articles have a predominately Canadian flavour, we are sure you will find his legal point of view enlightening where ever you ship sails. Darren has also published other legal articles on general admiralty law, view them all at the League & Williams website. You may reach Darren for questions or comments by email at "info  at", or phone at (250) 888-0002.

The information contained in the written material herein is not legal advice and should not be relied on as legal advice. It is for information purposes only. If you require legal advice you should consult a lawyer.

To better understand legal terms used, consult the Legal Glossary. You may also want to see other glossaries, modern mariners and marine abbreviations .

Date   Title and Synopsis
February 2011   Terminating a Mariner for Poor Performance: Beyond the Duty to Simply Warn
A recent B.C. court case involving the termination of a towboat master serves as an important reminder of when, why, and how, an employer may properly terminate a mariner... (read more)
January 2011   A Mariner’s Primer on Limitation Periods:
Is It Too Late to Sue, or Be Sued?
Whether it is too late to be sued, or too late to sue, is an unfortunate question... (read more)
Sept 2009   Minimum Safe Manning Documents - Enough Hands On Deck?
Since coming into force on July 1, 2007, mariners and vessel owners have been adjusting to significant changes to vessel... (read more)
August 2009   The First Year of Fines : Update on the New Marine Administrative Monetary Penalty System
Offences under the Canada Shipping Act 2001 (“CSA 2001”) no longer need to be prosecuted in court in order for mariners and vessel owners to feel the financial sting of accidents or momentary lapses in judgment. (read more)
June 2009   Finders Keepers? - Salvage Law for the Non-Professional Salvor
A mariner’s rights and responsibilities relating to salvage are often misunderstood. Finding an abandoned vessel at sea or along the shoreline, for example, does not give the mariner the automatic right to salvage the vessel... (read more)
Feb 2009   “Commercial Morality” in Ship Repairs – The Doctrine of Conscionability
Shipyards are frequently criticized for the cost of their work. This criticism is often, but not always, unfair. Many ships are bought without full knowledge of the work that is needed to make them truly seaworthy, or without appreciating the ongoing cost of properly maintaining a ship... (read more)
Jan 2009   Falling Asleep at the Wheel: Negligence, or Gross Negligence?
Hardly a mariner who has taken the wheel of a vessel can deny that at some point in their career they have fallen asleep, even for the briefest of moments. (read more)
Dec 2008   Marine Law Myths: Registering Liens on Vessels
A lien is neither easy to define, nor easy to understand, but almost everyone knows that a lien is something they don’t want on their property. (read more)
August 2008   Sinking Ships Loosen Lips: Privilege and the Right to Counsel in Marine Accidents
Be it a sinking, a collision, a catastrophic machinery failure, a personal injury or death aboard a ship, or an oil spill, a mariner is well advised to understand the nature of their responsibility to cooperate with marine investigations... (read more)
July 2008   Criminal Negligence
It is commonly thought that criminal charges only arise where a person intends to commit the criminal act. Television shows often depict people being acquitted of a criminal charge, such as theft or assault... (read more)
April 2008   Violation Tickets for Engineers?
The Canada Shipping Act 2001 ("CSA 2001"), which came into force on July 1, 2007, replaced the former Canada Shipping Act and brought with it many important changes to the law. One important change was the implementation of the Administrative Monetary Penalty (AMP)... (read more)
Jan 2008   Without Prejudice
It is a common misconception that marking a letter, email, or other correspondence with the expression "without prejudice", makes the person using that expression immune from the content of what is written. (read more)
Dec 2007   Administrative Monetary Penalties (AMP) in Canada - Part 2
In last month's "Advocate" we discussed the new "AMP" (Administrative Monetary Penalty) system currently being brought into effect under the Canada Shipping Act 2001 ("CSA 2001"). I described how the AMP system was intended to encourage compliance... (read more)
Nov 2007   Administrative Monetary Penalties (AMP) in Canada - Part 1
This month's "Advocate" will focus on the implementation of AMPS (Administrative Monetary Penalties), a system of ticketing and fines akin to motor vehicle traffic tickets that legislators hope will make enforcement of the CSA 2001 and regulations more effective... (read more)
August 2007   Wage Claimants Proceed Against Asset Outside of Bankruptcy, Trumping Previously Registered Mortgage
The interplay between bankruptcy and maritime law continues to surprise bankruptcy lawyers to the pleasure of their counterparts in admiralty. In Nanaimo Harbour Link Corporation v. Abakhan & Associates (Trustees) Inc. ... (read more)
June 2007   Unsafe Working Conditions: Rights and Responsibilities of Workers and Employers
Since the earliest example of a person trading their labour for reward in an adventure at sea, the question has arisen: "is this work more dangerous than it needs to be?". (read more)
May 2007   Notice to Mariners: Beware The Hazards of E-Mail
In my practice as a marine lawyer I have seen more than few mariners sink themselves as a result of the hazardous use of electronic mail, or "e-mail". (read more)
April 2007   Principles of Contract Law for Mariners
Obligations to Perform & Fundamental Breach; costly consequences can flow from incorrectly assuming that another person's failure to abide by a contract relieves you of your obligations under the same agreement. (read more)
Feb. 2007   Employment Law Primer for Mariners - Severance and Damages for Wrongful Dismissal
In last month's "Advocate" we outlined the law regarding a maritime lien for a seaman's wages and discussed why the powerful remedy of such a lien, ... (read more)
Jan. 2007   Seaman's Wage Claims, and Maritime Liens: Introduction to the Principles
The remedies available to seamen when their wages go unpaid are unlike those remedies available to any worker in any other industry - they are truly extraordinary. It is wise for every mariner to have a basic understanding of what a maritime lien for wages is... (read more)
July 2006   Changes to Transport Canada Policy: Anti-depressants & Crew Medical Certificates
When in 1914 Ernest Shackleton published his renown advertisement for crew to man his transatlantic expedition to Antarctica, he clearly considered, as a prudent master would, the psychological pressures that would beset his crew. (read more)
Dec. 2005   “Electrolysis” and Impressed Current Corrosion as an insured “Peril of the Sea”
If your vessel has ever been damaged by “electrolysis” and you have claimed on your hull and machinery insurance, chances are you have been denied insurance ... (read more)
July 2005   “Get Off My Boat” – Vessel Searches and a Mariners Right to Privacy
A reader recently asked me to describe her right to deny an enforcement officer access to her vessel. The request highlights a common misconception that a mariner has the right to stop an enforcement officer from boarding their vessel without a search warrant. (read more)
May 2005   Of Seagulls and Bilge Water: A Primer on Bill C-15
Despite its harmless sounding name, “An Act to amend the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994 and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999”, the new federal law proposed under Bill C-15... (read more)
April 2005   Buying & Selling Marine Merchandise – Part II
Caveat Emptor: The Rule of “Buyer Beware” Prevails

The rule of “buyer beware”, or caveat emptor, remains good law in Canada and mariners are wise to understand its principles. (read more)
March 2005   Buying & Selling Marine Merchandise – Part I
Death of the Implied Warranty of Fitness

The purchase and sale of marine merchandise gives rise to a significant portion of my work as a marine lawyer. Claims by purchasers, and defences for vendors, ... (read more)
Feb. 2005   When being Impaired on a Moored Vessel becomes a Criminal Offence
I recently went to trial for a towboat skipper who had been charged with being in “care and control” of his vessel while “impaired”, contrary to section 253(a) of the Canada Criminal Code. (read more)
Jan. 2005   Myths of the Repairers Lien Act
Mariners, and businesses in the marine industry, should know that their rights and liabilities under the BC Repairers Liens are not what they once were, nor what they may assume. (read more)
Dec. 2004   Workplace Safety and the Law
Recent amendments to the Criminal Code establish a specific legal duty for employers to take steps towards a safe workplace, including on the water. Failure to do so may result in charges of criminal negligence. (read more)
May 2004   The Mariner’s Rights in Salvage: A Primer for the Non-Professional Salvor
This article is intended to outline of the rights and responsibilities of mariners who undertake “pure” salvage, that is, salvage work done without a salvage contract. (read more)
March 2004   A Primer on Regulatory Offences: Absolute and Strict Liability
The majority of legal liabilities a mariner may face in the course of their nautical career will be “regulatory offences”. Regulatory offences include ‘crimes’ like oil pollution, unlicensed fishing, maintaining an unsafe work place... (read more)
June 2003   Confined Spaces – Keeping a Clear Head
In January of 2002, eight crewmembers were killed by an explosion while spray painting the inside of an upper ballast tank of their Hong Kong registered bulk carrier. Five bodies were found, while three were presumed to have been vaporized. (read more)

Mr Darren WilliamsAbout Darren Williams, BSc. LLb.

Darren Williams is a Barrister and Solicitor (Lawyer) with Williams & Company in Victoria B.C. Mr. Williams was raised on Vancouver Island in a second generation commercial fishing family and started working on vessels as an adolescent. Mr. Williams spent over 1000 days at sea along all portions of the B.C. coast between 1985 and 1997. In 1990 he graduated from Brentwood College and attended the University of Victoria, where he completed a Bachelor of Science with Honours in Psychology in 1996, and a Bachelor of Laws in 2000.

Mr. Williams worked as an associate at a Vancouver admiralty law firm and worked for marine underwriters including Lloyds of London. Mr. Williams has appeared before:

Mr. Williams has been invited to speak and has presented on marine issues to:

Mr. Williams publishes monthly in the area of marine law and has to his credit over 50 works in publications including:

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Know your rights as a professional seafarer

If you are involved in a maritime incident, you should be aware of your rights. No matter where you are from, where you are working, and what has happen, you have a right to due process.

You can download the poster pictured, to print, and put up on your ship's bulletin board, for the benefit of all your crewmates and your company. You can read further on your rights and obligations in further details, in this document.

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