Typically, our clients involve us at an early stage for direction and advice on the legal, regulatory and contractual side of a deal or project. We collaborate with our clients to clearly plan out and execute the required contractual structure for the commercial, financial and technical requirements.

We are also pleased to support clients on a more ad hoc basis where, for example, there has been an unexpected development on a deal or there is increased time pressure.

With our unique blend of in-house and private practice experience across a wide spectrum of jurisdictions within a tight-knit team, we are well placed to provide a bespoke service to our clients’ specific requirements and work closely with our clients in a broad range of transactions and projects.

Shipping Contracts & Projects

Shipping carries the world of commodity trading – literally and figuratively. Our market experience in this area allows us to advise clients in respect of all documents and contracts required in the business.

We have extensive experience of charterparty negotiations and drafting. We perform various roles  in the charterparty process – from leading negotiations with the counterparty and the drafting exercise to advising behind the scene on specific clauses.  We have been involved in countless long-term and short-term charter negotiations both from an in-house and a private practice perspective and consider ourselves well-placed to work efficiently with our clients to finalise the contracts accurately and promptly.

We also act on both sides of newbuild transactions: both for major shipyards and for purchasing vessel owners. We advise buyers during the transaction period and have acted for buyers in respect of warranty claims following delivery.

In the closely related Logistics & Transport field, we regularly advise operators, freight forwarders, charterers, owners, tug and barge companies and various other logistics players on various types of contracts including service contracts, shipping agency contracts, charterparties, long-term contracts, standard terms for bills of lading, booking verbiage, e-commerce terms, and other freight contracts.

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Commodities and Energy Contracts & Projects

We support the trading, operations and shipping teams of international trading companies in locations all around the world.  Traders have dynamic and demanding teams which require prompt and robust advice.  It is important to ensure that legal accuracy, attention to detail and impartiality are not compromised because a matter is urgent and high-pressured.

We review, negotiate, draft and advise on all commodity trading documents.  This involves liaising with other support functions of the client’s business in respect of tax issues, financial issues, credit issues, compliance issues and any other areas of risk prior to execution.

A selection of commodity trading documents we draft and advise on:

  • All sale and purchase documents, including general sale and purchase agreements together with the confirmation notices issued under them
  • Bespoke long-term sale and purchase agreements, involving the full range of Incoterms
  • Volume or supply contracts
  • Off-take agreements
  • Long-term (5 to 15 years) and short-term time charterparties, master charterparties and voyage charterparties and all associated documents
  • Terminal agreements
  • Storage agreements
  • Conditions of use
  • Derivative contracts
  • Tender documents
  • Letters of credit
  • Guarantees
  • Joint venture agreements
  • Confidentiality agreements
  • Terms sheets
  • Memorandums of undertaking

Our firm also advises on cargo and shipping operational issues, for example, in relation to arrival/delivery windows, shortage and quality/off-spec, laytime and demurrage, issuing guarantees and letters of credit, bills of lading and letters of indemnity.

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Finance Agreements

We advise lenders, sellers and buyers on letters of credit, vessel mortgages and other finance arrangements, performance guarantees and lines of trade credit. We also act for clients on hedging documents and derivatives agreements.

This involves ensuring our client’s interests are fully protected under documentary credits and other finance agreements, such as rights as the holder of a bill of lading, lien rights against shipowners, rights to obtain security through court legal action and to wind up loan agreements and facility agreements with borrowers.

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Storage, warehouses, ports and terminals

We have experience of drafting and advising on Terminal Use Agreements, Port Liability Agreements and all documents required for the use of terminals by ship operators, logistic companies and freight forwarders.

Storage and blending are essential aspects in controlling and managing commodity prices and risk.  There are often temporal issues that arise in supply or demand of commodities.  Naturally that affects price.  Holding the commodity, or indeed transforming the commodity by blending or other means, are two ways of dealing with those temporal pricing issues.  We only need look as recently as the covid-19 pandemic for an example.  Demand dropped drastically as the global economy was effectively shutdown overnight.  The price of most commodities collapsed, led by oil markets.  Traders needed to find storage solutions until prices rebounded and certain blends prioritised.

This dynamic creates a host of issues from a contractual and legal perspective.  Often contracts do not properly contemplate the temporal issue.  Perhaps they do and one party will suffer significant financial loss.  We advise companies through such issues and seek to protect their position as far as possible.  This does not only relate to catastrophic recessionary events.  We have seen LME warrants for storage in the spotlight over the past decade at differing times, with alleged concerns about market distortion.  There is also a myriad of issues that can arise with commodities as they pass through ports and terminals.

We also recently advised a leading bulk carrier /ports and terminal owner/operator on revising and drafting new provisions for their general terms and conditions at many locations across the US.  This is a high profile project for this key client of the firm.

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General cross-border or complex commercial contracts

Our contract and advisory work is not limited to specific sectors.  We advise on commercial projects and contracts across a raft of different industries and contexts.  A key feature of our offering is to structure and advise on complex deals that are international in nature.

We regularly advise clients on how to achieve their commercial objectives through clever, clear structuring.  We do this by first understanding fully the commercial context of the deal.  The regulatory, legal and insurance frameworks, limitations and opportunities are then layered into the analysis.  If we need to set up a multi-jurisdictional cross-border team, our collaborative and seamless approach across our international offices makes this a straight forward project management process.  Indeed, this is the core of our global structure.

As a recent example, we advised a major international company on the insurance regimes in the United States, England and Australia in the context of their online sales and services.  We are now moving into the structuring phase and our geographical reach makes us well placed to handle this extra work.

In our experience, no matter what sector or type of contract you are dealing with, the nature of our approach does not change.  We treat every project as the most important priority we have, and apply our analysis and eye for detail to mitigate risk.  We are strongly focused on results – getting the deal done for our client in the most favourable and commercially feasible way. 

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Andrea de la Brena
Partner - Mexico City
Damon Thompson
Partner - London
Edward W. Floyd
Partner - New York
Gerold Zeiler
Partner - New York, Vienna
Luke Zadkovich
Partner - New York, London, Sydney
Markus Schifferl
Partner - Vienna
Timothy S. McGovern
Partner - Chicago
Lukas Wieser
Counsel - Vienna
Carolina Palacios
Senior Associate - London
Aiden Lerch
Associate - London, Sydney
Andrijana Mišović
Associate - Vienna
Calum Cheyne
Associate - London
Eva-Maria Mayer
Associate - New York
Innhwa Kwon
Associate - Vienna
Jonas S. Patzwall
Associate - New York
Katherine Georginis
Associate - Chicago
Philip Vagin
Associate - New York
Gaudenz Küenburg
Junior Associate - Vienna
  • Advised an international bank on issues arising from the cancellation of a trade credit facility, assignment of a related insurance claim and pursuing assets of the borrowers (oil traders) in various jurisdictions across the world, including England, Singapore and Belize.

  • Representation of Asian governmental energy entity in Coronavirus related advice reagrding current portfolio of charter parties.

  • Representation of major international LNG supplier in Coronavirus related advice on Indian customs regulations regarding presence of armed guards and piracy prevention personnel, off hire and risk assessment.

  • Representation of major Central European Energy Company in relation to a failure to load at a North African LNG terminal. The issue was successfully resolved with the client being “kept whole” and the terms of loading and delivery of the cargo re-negotiated.

  • Representation of a major US oil refinery in relation to disputes under their shipping contracts during the COVID-19 crisis. The dispute related to delays under a bespoke charterparty.

  • Legal advice to a major petroleum product importer in a dispute relating to out of specification oil products

  • Advised a Norwegian chartering company, as borrowers, in relation to an alleged default under a trade finance loan agreement. Client’s financiers commenced the claim in the High Court of England of Wales, seeking approximately US$1.5m.

  • Acted for the runoff company of a large state insurer as the re-insured in a reinsurance coverage dispute concerning liquidators’ expense insurance with a leading international reinsurer.

  • Advised a P&I Club on the International Group of P&I Clubs Pooling Agreement and reviewed various shipping related contracts for P&I cover.

  • Acted for a UAE steel trading company in relation to a shareholder’s rights and alleged misappropriation of company funds.

  • Advised major LNG chartering company on midterm charter parties with multinational oil trading company.

  • Advised the runoff company of a large state insurer in relation to a fraudulent non-disclosure indemnity dispute which was multi-layered, complex, with a financial advisory company seeking indemnity for over 300 claims made against its various financial/investment advisers.

  • Advised an Italian coal trader relating to the failure of their counter-party to pay under a letter of credit on the basis of alleged fraudulent conduct. This matter involved Singapore anti-suit and arbitration proceedings, Karachi court proceedings and Zurich proceedings against the confirming bank.

  • Representation of a Mexican entity in the digital marketing industry in negotiations with a major company in the business of co-working spaces on the anticipated termination of a co-working services agreement.

  • Preparation of bespoke template charterparty documents for vessel owners in the LNG industry. Advising on the terms of ShellLNGTime 1 and ShellLNGTime 2 to provide a comprehensive template/standard form document at an appropriate risk level for clients.

  • Advised an Asian governmental energy entity in relation to its insurance requirements for the import, trading and transportation of LNG

  • Representation of major international LNG supplier and charterer in drafting and negotiating long term charters for four new-build LNG carriers.

  • Advised Italian shipowner on sanctions related to trade in South and Middle America.

  • Advised major European shipping company on the provision of an insurance product in England, Australia and the United States.

  • Legal advice to a major petroleum product importer relating to out of specification oil products

  • Advised on and drafted protective clauses for a major US oil refinery in relation to risk under their shipping contracts during the Covid-19 crisis.

  • Negotiated and drafted multi-million-dollar offshore services contract on behalf of vessel-owner client.

  • Acted for an oil and gas company on proceedings in the High Court against its COO and his related companies for receipt of alleged secret commissions. Worldwide freezing orders were obtained to the value of approx US$25m.

  • Advised client shipowner on various cabotage issues in multiple jurisdictions.

  • Representation of major international LNG supplier in negotiations of several charter parties with Indian oil corporation.

  • Advised Skandinavian shipowner regarding informal arrest of vessel in Venezuela on claims of “stolen cargo” valued at several million USD.

  • Advising Mexican subsidiary of a major Austrian group in the oil drilling industry on its day-to-day corporate and employment issues, including the drafting and reviewing of master sales agreements that contain provisions stipulating specific timeframes and transportation information for delivery and return of rental equipment, as well as other complex commercial contracts.

  • Acted for a major off-shore oil drilling company in relation to a contractual dispute in the Gulf. The case involved questions of repudiatory breach and late delivery of equipment.

  • Advised on the commissioning and commercial start-up of a Floating Liquefaction Unit and Floating Storage Unit in West Africa for the sole off-taker trader. Various operational issues arose with significant commercial impact.  Required regular advice and draft messages to protect contractual positions and resolve the issues.

  • Drafted and negotiated a 20-year Sale and Purchase Agreement and associated logistics agreements for a leading trading company for volumes of liquefied helium produced in the Siberian region of Russia which involved containerised carriage by road and sea.

  • Representation of major LNG supplier on a 15-year Gas Sales Agreement and Terminal Use Agreement for supply of LNG/natural gas in West Africa The project involved intense time pressure; technical and contractual complexity with a Floating Storage Unit and a Floating Regasification Unit and the trader client retaining title to the LNG/gas during the regasification process; local legal requirements; and inherent political and regulatory risk.

  • Drafted a Construction Contract for a Floating Storage and Regasification Unit together with the associated Technical Services Agreement, the Ship Management Agreement and Charterparty on behalf of a trading company for an important strategic project in Russian territorial waters.

    • Markus Schifferl
      "Markus Schifferl is a 'hard-working and persuasive counsel', praised for his 'very diligent and sophisticated approach' to joint venture and post-M&A disputes."

    Chambers Global 2018

    • Gerold Zeiler
      Leading Individual 2018 (Band 1)
      "Gerold Zeiler is recognised as one of the most prominent names in the field of arbitration, where he excels as both counsel and arbitrator. In addition to his outstanding expertise, a client also notes his ""great business acumen,"" adding that he is ""sharp and comes straight to the point in a few minutes.""
  • Commercial Cases – A Year in Review: 2019-2020
  • Ashwin Shanker and Luke Zadkovich discuss liens, LOIs, force majeure and COVID-19
  • Obtaining Adequate Assurances
  • Pre-Contract Representations and Contemplated Damages
  • Contract Review: Levers and Measures
  • Introduction: How to Deal with an Economic Crisis? A Guide for International Businesses
  • Asset Attachments – Rule B Early Contract and Charterparty Review (Part 11 of Economic Crisis Series)

    Asset Attachments – Rule B Early Contract and Charterparty Review (Part 11 of Economic Crisis Series)

    Asset attachments in the United States    Part 11 of our series on the tools and strategies that international businesses can use in an economic crisis to protect their positions.    Rule B attachment under US law allows a party to obtain security and jurisdiction over a counterparty. In time of economic turmoil when parties are faced with increasing counterparty risk and financial exposure, it can be an important tool to use.     When contracts are breached and payments are not made, our clients regularly look for assistance in securing their position. For us at ZFZ that means putting efforts in high gear and acting swiftly. We want to put a backstop to losses and prepare to recover as much as possible of any outstanding claim. Rule B attachment allows for parties with maritime claims to attach tangible and intangible property of a counterparty. It can be a valuable alternative to Rule C arrest, make up some of its shortcomings and help a commercial party to overcome difficulties in enforcing their claims.      Jonas Patzwall gives you the rundown on what to look for and what to expect when considering Rule B attachments. For further information please contact Jonas Patzwall or anyone from the ZFZ team to discuss this, or any of the other topics in the video series.

  • Pre-Contract Protection and Damages Early Contract and Charterparty Review (Part 3 of Economic Crisis Series)

    Pre-Contract Protection and Damages Early Contract and Charterparty Review (Part 3 of Economic Crisis Series)

    Pre-contract protection – securing useful representations and creating contemplated damages.   Part 3 of our series on how to deal with an economic crisis, Shannen Trout discusses what international businesses can do pre-contract.   Obviously many deals now will be off the table in this market. Contraction is already happening. The price of oil has collapsed. As liquidity dries up, this situation might well get worse.   However, there will be those in a position to continue deal-making. At this time, it is even more important to consider carefully what kind of representations or guarantees you can obtain before entering into contracts. An air-tight bank performance guarantee is the strongest, yet hardest to obtain.   In this talk, we look at other options and assess what can be done in the context of representations and special damages awareness. These strategies are to be employed during commercial negotiations and put parties in a better position if things go wrong. For further information please contact Shannen Trout or anyone from the ZFZ team to discuss this, or any of the other topics in the video series.
  • Early Contract and Charterparty Review (Part 2 of Economic Crisis Series)

    Early Contract and Charterparty Review (Part 2 of Economic Crisis Series)

    Contractual levers and measures   Part 2 of our series on how to deal with an economic crisis – a guide for international businesses.   Damon Thompson discusses the importance of reviewing your contracts and charterparties at an early stage in an economic downturn, as well as some key provisions to look out for following the outbreak of COVID-19.   As liquidity tightens across the economy, parties will increasingly look to tighten the belt. Being on top of your charterparty provisions and understanding exactly where you stand is the first step for a company being ready to combat any speculative claims.    Damon has years of experience in the legal industry, including eight years at a major energy trading company, so is well aware of what practical steps a company can take to protect its position. Damon looks at standard form exclusion clauses, safe port warranties and what parties can do now to protect their position over the coming weeks and months.   If you have any questions, or would like someone to have a close look at your charterparty/contractual terms, please speak to Damon or your usual ZFZ contact.
  • Relationships Matter Early Contract and Charterparty Review (Part 1 of Economic Crisis Series)

    Relationships Matter Early Contract and Charterparty Review (Part 1 of Economic Crisis Series)

    Relationships matter in a crisis   Part 1 of our series on how to deal with an economic crisis – a guide for international businesses.   Karl Greissinger joins us with over two decades of in-house experience in the energy sectors. In this video, Karl offers his invaluable insight into the key issues that businesses should keep close in mind as they deal with the day-to-day difficulties posed by the economic climate.    While a lot of our guidance relates to specific legal steps that businesses can take, Karl is uniquely positioned to offer a commercial perspective. Relationships matter, and the way that a company conducts its business now could have an effect much more far reaching than the consequences of the ongoing global downturn. Contact your usual ZFZ contact, for more.