Beware the bareboat charter

I’m truly the worst saltwater fisherman around. I can’t catch anything. (I was pretty good as a kid with big mouth bass on my grandparent’s farm, but get me near salt water …) The point is that I’m hoping I hooked you with the blog headline. The intent of it was to highlight some things to remember about bareboat charter agreements.

With a bareboat charter, the owner relinquishes command, control and possession of a vessel to the charterer who essentially stands in the shoes of the owner. The owner should understand the potential liabilities arising from the vessel being used outside its documented allowance, which includes penalties and/or possible forfeiture. In addition, if the bareboat charter is deemed invalid, insurance coverage may be lost. On the other side of the capstan, the charterer is agreeing to accept the responsibility of operating the vessel consistent with applicable laws and regulations. Under a bareboat charter, the charterer is the warrantor of a seaworthy vessel to the crew. (However, remember that the bareboat charter does not mean complete absolution for the owner. Among other things, an owner may still be held responsible for injuries caused by defects that existed prior to the start of the charter period.)

Let’s be clear. The bareboat charter agreement has a lot of angles and the prudent owner or charter makes certain that maritime legal counsel has reviewed any such arrangement. There’s likely no watertight guarantee to be had, but your admiralty attorney can make sure any such contractual arrangement is seaworthy when it breaks ground.

Underway and making way.  (Owner operated.)

About the author

John K. Fulweiler

John K. Fulweiler is a licensed mariner and experienced admiralty attorney. He represents individuals and companies throughout the East and Gulf Coasts and has recently taken command of his own maritime law firm. He enjoys navigating the choppy waters of the maritime law, but readily admits to missing life on the water. He can be reached at . His website is

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