Why You Need a Marine Lawyer When Buying or Selling a Boat in Canada!

When you think about boating, you probably picture the water, wind in your sails, and the sun. You probably don’t picture paperwork or meetings. Yet buying and owning a boat can involve extensive administrative work. Aside from the buying of the boat, there is registration, licensure, taxes, and more to deal with on a regular basis.

Even if you don’t intend on having an accident with your boat, it is still possible and that, too, can mean plenty of onshore work.

Having a marine lawyer you can trust is a great idea both in case of legal issues, and just to make the process of owning a boat more fun. Alongside other documentation specialists - like the experts at Vessel Registration Canada - can mean less time at your desk and more time at the helm.

Do I really need a lawyer?

Even though you may think you know everything there is to know about boating and being out on the water, situations can come up that are new to you. In these cases, it’s wise to have a marine lawyer on your side.

For instance, you may feel confident in purchasing a boat on your own, particularly if you’re purchasing a relatively small pleasure craft. However, the larger your boat is, the more complex the requirements can be for registration, insurance, and documentation. What’s more, these high value assets have other financial implications that you’ll need to consider.

Whether you own a boat already or are thinking about it, you probably know that there are endless rules and regulations that you're required to follow. For example, did you know that every boat must have a "plug" on board to prevent flooding in case of a leak? Or that all boats must carry an emergency position-indicating radio beacon (EPIRB)?

Rather than spending hours researching the answers, working with a marine lawyer can help you get information quickly and make the process of owning a boat simple.

What is a marine lawyer?

A marine or maritime lawyer is an attorney who specializes in boat and water related law. They have earned a law degree with a specialization in maritime law.

Maritime law is the area of law that covers private maritime business and nautical matters, including accidents that may occur on the water.

A marine lawyer will know the ins and outs of maritime law and will be able to make sense of the Law of the Sea. These laws cover anything related to a vessel that is seaworthy as well as anything that happens on the open water.

Aside from accidents, maritime law also deals with:

  • Commerce, such as the buying and selling of boats;
  • Cargo lost at sea;
  • The relationships between seamen and their employees;
  • Leisure travel, such as cruise travel or personal travel by boat; and
  • Navigation

As a boat owner, you know that being out on the water can be unpredictable. One minute, everything is going swimmingly—and then the next minute you realize that your mainsail is torn, or your fuel tank is leaking, or the coast guard is honking their horn at you to signal that it's time to come back to shore.

Having a marine lawyer in your corner can help you avoid these kinds of disasters—and keep you afloat (literally).

Why do I need a marine lawyer?

The most common reasons someone will begin working with a marine lawyer are boat crashes, dock incidents, or injuries. If your boat crashes, whether into a person, a dock, or another vessel, you’ll be needing a marine lawyer.

Marine lawyers can also help in the more mundane parts of boat ownership, such as purchasing a boat. Your lawyer can help you with all contract negotiations associated with your vessel.

For instance, if you are considering buying a boat, a marine lawyer can provide advice on what documentation you may need. They can also help during the contract negotiations, speaking on your behalf to the seller if desired, or simply to help investigate liens and authenticate the title. As a seller, you can also ask your lawyer to draft bills of sale for your boat and other related items to the boat purchase (i.e., GPS, motor, trailer). 

Some buyers and sellers hesitate to work with a lawyer for fear it may complicate the transaction, but the reality is that the lawyer can simplify the paperwork and ensure both sides come away happy. That means you can get your boat faster and feel even more confident in your decision.

Get a marine lawyer before you need one

There's no such thing as a good time to confront legal issues. You need to be able to trust that the person who has your back is going to tell you what you need to hear—not just what you want to hear. Just like with friends, one of the best ways to build trust is through building a relationship.

So why not start now? If you think having a lawyer on hand for potential purchases, sales, or accidents, look for one now when you’re not under pressure. Take the time to meet with a few and find one you trust. Try to reach out to them with questions to building a relationship that you can lean on in the future.

What marine law is, really

A lawyer can simply be considered an expert on the law and what better person to ask for advice than an expert? Though documentation specialists, brokers, and other people in your boating community may have the answer to most questions, it never hurts to get a second opinion.

Consider working with a marine lawyer early on so you can build a relationship with that person. Hopefully, you’ll never have to come to them with a serious issue, but if you do, you’ll be able to trust their advice.

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