Dr Jan Dreyer, partner at Dabelstein and Passehl, can look out over his office in January 2014 directly at the Blohm+Voss shipyard in Hamburg. “Currently there are three superyachts under the covers at the moment”, he says. “Two of them are there for major refits - one being Paul Allen’s Octopus - and there’s one new build, which I think is in the final stages of finishing.”

“Lürssen is quite busy too”, Dreyer adds, “So for the very, very big yachts there is still a high demand for the specialist German shipyards.” This is good news for Dreyer and his firm, which he cites as the largest maritime specialist in Germany. He acknowledges that the vast majority of superyacht owners wish to conduct sale and purchase agreements under the auspices of English law, which curtails the German firm’s presence in this area. But operating within the German jurisdiction, Dabelstein and Passehl is able to provide legal services to an effervescent German superyacht industry, which is doing brisk business in the context of a sluggish global market: “The supply chain for yachts in Germany is one of the biggest in the world and we are helping these companies with their supply contracts across the globe”.

Litigation is a rare occurrence within Dreyer’s regular activities. “Our focus is on the day to day business and things such as yard mortgages,” he says, “where the law of the site is applicable to the actual shipbuilding, and where we are happy to help the big English firms such as Hill Dickinson, Holman Fenwick Willan and Clyde & Co.”

Arbitration and mediation however, are more commonplace, where negotiations are required to alleviate the need for civil actions. Dreyer believes that the primary culprit, and cause for said negotiations, lies with the discipline of project management, which he feels could be improved upon to avoid disputes completely. “We need to find a common ground for projects that can take three years or more, rather than reaching intersections and having to justify responsibility for reaching or not reaching a certain point”, Dreyer explains. “That’s when everybody starts pointing at each other and blaming everyone else.”


The Blohm + Voss shipyard that Dr Dreyer's office looks out onto.

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Dabelstein & Passehl

Blohm + Voss Shipyards GmbH

Lürssen Yachts

Hill Dickinson LLP

Holman Fenwick & Willan

Clyde & Co