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Maritime & Admiralty Law

Concannon & Charles' admiralty and maritime law practice is different than what you normally see advertised on other law firm's admiralty web site pages.  Although we handle routine matters at clients' request, our practice is more specialized.  We solve problems.

MPOV Seabed Worker, chartered by David Concannon to recover the Apollo F-1 engines for Bezos Expeditions.

Aerial photo by David Concannon

David Concannon and Matthew Charles grew up on and under the sea.  They understand the application of state, federal and international maritime laws to every day problems occurring on inland, coastal and ocean waters because they have experienced them and spent decades learning to overcome and navigate through them.  We have helped clients find solutions to a variety of issues involving admiralty and maritime law, including the sale, importation, chartering and registration of vessels; short and long term chartering of yachts, research vessels and offshore vessels for work or recreation; advising high net worth individuals and family offices on risk management, operation, insurance and best practices for client-owned and chartered vessels; investigating accidents and defending lawsuits involving admiralty and maritime claims brought under the Jones Act, Death on the High Seas Act and Seaman's Manslaughter Act. 

The firm routinely handles personal injury, wrongful death and product liability cases involving accidents at sea.  In addition, the following is brief list of Concannon & Charles' specialized experience in legal matters involving admiralty and maritime law.  Please use this as a guide to the breadth of our experience and consider it in determining whether we can assist you.


  • 1995 – David Concannon authored the trial court’s decision in Deep Sea Research v. The Brother Jonathan, 883 F. Supp. 1343 (N.D. Cal. 1995), the seminal case in determining state’s ownership of historic shipwrecks, sovereign immunity and the definition of “abandonment” (affirmed unanimously by the U.S. Supreme Court in California v. Deep Sea Research, 523 U.S. 491 (1998)).

  • 1996 – David Concannon co-founded and became the first General Counsel to Professional Shipwreck Explorers Association.

  • 1996-2001 – David Concannon became Chairman of the Legal Committee (equivalent of General Counsel) of The Explorers Club in New York City, where he handled a variety of legal matters affecting international exploration.

  • 1998-1999 – David Concannon represented The Explorers Club and various explorers in Haver v. R.M.S. Titanic, Inc., 171 F.3rd 943 (4th Cir. 1999), cert. denied, 528 U.S. 825 (1999), which restored public access to the wreck of the R.M.S. Titanic for exploration and photography.

  • 2000 – David Concannon was an observer to the UNESCO Convention on the Preservation of Underwater Cultural Heritage in Paris, France.

  • 2000 – David Concannon was elected to membership in the Sea-Space Symposium, a private organization for leaders in ocean and space exploration.  He was the organization's youngest member for 10 years (replacing Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, NASA Astronaut and later NOAA Administrator).

  • 2000 – David Concannon was the expedition organizer and counsel to R.M.S. Titanic, Inc.’s expedition to recover artifacts from the Titanic.  He three deep submersible dives to explore the wreck site, at a depth of 12,500 feet, and discovered a new debris field far to the south of the stern section.  In addition to chartering the ships, submersibles and remotely operated vehicles used on the expedition, Mr. Concannon also helped the company navigate through the intricacies of the UNESCO Convention on the Preservation of Underwater Cultural Heritage, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the International Agreement between the United States, Britain, France and Canada concerning activities at the wreck site, and the expectations of the federal court in Virginia overseeing salvage activities at the wreck site

  • 2000-2003 – David Concannon served as the legal advisor to James Cameron’s Earthship Productions for expeditions to the Titanic and Bismarck.  Mr. Concannon advised the client on the application of various domestic and international laws governing exploration at the sites, and he helped gain approval to film inside the Bismarck, which is considered a war grave under international law.

  • 2001 – David Concannon served as an on-site legal advisor to the Atlantic Sands Expedition, which discovered and explored the world’s deepest wooden shipwreck, a slave ship resting 16,100 feet deep in the Bermuda Triangle.  At the client's request, Mr. Concannon made a deep submersible dive to the wreck to assess its condition and determine its origin, which determined various legal issues affecting the wreck and client's operations.

  • 2003 – David Concannon served as the commercial sector's advisor to the U.S. Government on an expedition to the Titanic conducted by NOAA's Office of Ocean Exploration.

  • 2005 – David Concannon organized and the last expedition to explore the Titanic using deep submersibles.  The expedition filmed an Emmy-nominated program for The History Channel and explored the new southern debris field discovered in 2000.  

  • 2009 – David Concannon led an expedition that discovered two F4U-1 “Birdcage Canopy” Corsairs sunk in fresh water in North America.  Mr. Concannon advised the client on the application of the Sunken Military Craft Act and various state and federal laws.

  • 2010-2013 – Concannon & Charles and its affiliate company, Explorer Consulting, were retained by Bezos Expeditions to organize and lead the Apollo F-1 Search & Recovery Project.  The firm handled all legal aspects of the project, from analyzing the application of domestic and international law, to sourcing vendors, chartering ships and equipment, and gathering and protecting intellectual property.

  • 2011 – David Concannon and Matthew Charles organized and led the expedition that used side scan sonar to find the remnants of eight S-IC first stages from Apollo missions 4 through 16.

  • 2013 – David Concannon and Matthew Charles organized, and Mr. Concannon led, the expedition that recovered the F-1 engines from several Apollo missions, including the center engine from Apollo 11.  

  • 2015 – David Concannon participated in an expedition using deep submersibles and technical divers to explore the wreck of the HMHS Britannic.  Mr. Concannon negotiated an intellectual property-sharing agreement between the various participants in the expedition, as well as various production agreements, prior to providing logistical support to the expedition. 

  • 2020 – David Concannon temporarily rejoins legal team representing R.M.S. Titanic, Inc. in the salvage case pending before the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Virginia, to persuade the court to amend the its Order of July 28, 2000, to permit the salvor to minimally to cut into the wreck, only as necessary to access the Marconi Suite, and to detach from the wreck the Marconi wireless device and associated artifacts.  Over vociferous objections from the U.S. Government, the court enters an Order granting R.M.S. Titanic, Inc. permission to recover the Marconi device on May 18, 2020.

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