Kent Roberts


Industry focus

My goal is to help maritime operating companies have successful projects that create family wage jobs‎.

How I represent clients at Schwabe

I help maritime and transportation businesses in the Pacific Northwest structure transactions, resolve disputes, and control risks for successful projects. Over my 40 years of practice, I have earned a well-deserved reputation as Oregon’s business lawyer to the maritime industry.

With trial experience before many federal courts and administrative agencies, I can help clients anticipate and avoid problems in a wide variety of transportation projects and transactions. I advise maritime transportation companies, shipyards, ports, insurers, and service providers on business and regulatory matters that are crucial to their success.

I have handled some of the region’s most complex and high-profile projects in transportation and shipping, marine terminals, shipyards, and marine casualties, including the sale of one of North America’s largest floating drydocks, and the construction and shipping of its replacement 15 years later.

My deep knowledge of the maritime industry springs from my 11-year association with mentor, Alex Parks, a worldwide authority on maritime law. I helped research and edit Mr. Parks’ leading treatises, The Law of Tug, Tow & Pilotage 2d and Marine Insurance.

For many years, I taught Admiralty Law at Willamette University College of Law and have given dozens of presentations to industry leaders on challenging transportation, port, and shipyard issues.



  • Represented multiple tug and barge companies on hundreds of towing contracts, time charters, bareboat charters, and vessel sales.
  • Represented transportation clients and lenders on vessel construction financing and fleet financing.
  • Represented a barge owner in successfully defeating maritime and state lien claims following shipyard default.
  • Served as outside general counsel to one of the Pacific Northwest’s leading tankship operators.
  • Represented a non-U.S.-owned cement supplier in forming a Jones Act compliant barge company under the “Bowaters Amendment.”
  • Represented a tug company and its insurers in litigation following Washington State’s largest oil spill.
  • Represented several marine clients in business sale transactions and acquisitions.


  • Represented an international terminal operator in entering a long-term lease with a Pacific Northwest port.
  • Represented a Pacific Northwest coastal port in litigation following an oil spill from a port-owned marine terminal constructed from WWII-era cargo ship hulls.
  • Represented a Pacific Northwest port in successfully recovering all damages resulting from a major ship casualty at the port’s general cargo terminal.
  • Represented maritime operators and a port in defeating an “Act of God” defense when multiple ships dragged anchor in a 50-year windstorm, damaging four Columbia River docks.


  • Obtained Coast Guard approval for foreign construction of non-integrated cargo tanks installed in U.S.- built barges while maintaining Jones Act compliance.
  • Represented a Pacific Northwest shipyard in contracting for construction and heavy lift transport from China of a new build 960’ drydock.
  • Represented a Pacific Northwest shipyard in contracting for construction of a 540’ ATB tank barge as well as multiple general cargo and tank barges.


  • Northwestern School of Law, Lewis & Clark College, Juris Doctor degree (1979)
  • University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, Bachelor of Arts degree (1976)


  • Oregon State Courts
  • U.S. Court of Appeals - Ninth Circuit
  • U.S. District Court - District of Oregon
  • U.S. Supreme Court


  • Maritime Law Association of the United States (MLA), Proctor member
  • Maritime Law Association, Board of Directors (2007-2010)
  • MLA Committee on Inland Waters and Towing, Chair (2016-2018)
  • MLA Standing Committees on Marine Finance, Inland Waters and Towing, and Stevedores, Marine Terminals, and Vessel Services, Member
  • MLA Nominating Committee (2011-present), MLA Proctor Admission Committee (2015-present)
  • Propeller Club of the United States, Port of the Columbia River (Maritime Commerce Club), Member and Past President


  • Recognized by The Best Lawyers in America®, “Lawyer of the Year” for Admiralty and Maritime Law (2011, 2016, 2018 and 2024)
  • Recognized by The Best Lawyers in America®, Admiralty and Maritime Law (2006-2024)
  • St. Mary’s Academy, Mother Marie-Rose Service Award (2017)
  • Selected to the Oregon Super Lawyers List, Transportation & Maritime (2006-2009)

Additional Publications

“Subchapter M for Lawyers and Insurers:  Legal Implications and Effects of Subchapter M Towing Vessel Inspection Regulation,” University of San Francisco Maritime Law Journal, Vol 28, No 1, 2015 – 2016

“Marine Casualty reporting – U.S. Coast Guard Guidance and Selected Cases”; Maritime Law Association Proceedings Reports, Fall 2015

“Towing Vessel Inspection – Potential for Application of Statutory Fault Doctrines,” Benedict’s Maritime Bulletin, Vol 7, No 4, 2009

“Trends in Towing Contracting: The New Bisso End Runs,” Benedict’s Maritime Bulletin, Vol. 4, No 2, 2006

Additional Events

Safety Management Systems – Discovery in Litigation- MLA In-house Counsel Committee, 2015

Subchapter M Compliance and Statutory Liability Issues – MLA Committee on Ecology and Government Relations, 2015

Lozman v. City of Riviera Beach, Florida. What is a Vessel? MLA Committee on Recreational Boating, 2014; Pacific Coast Congress of Harbormaster and Port Managers

“Subchapter M for Lawyers and Insurers:  Legal Implications and Effects of Subchapter M Towing Vessel Inspection Regulation,” Pacific Admiralty Law Institute, 2014

Community Activities

  • St. Mary’s Academy, Board of Directors (2009-2019), Board Chair (2015-2019), Member of Executive and Finance Committees
  • Former college level men’s lacrosse referee and a former youth lacrosse coach
  • Named Girl’s Youth Lacrosse Coach of the Year in 2003 by the U.S. Lacrosse Association
  • Board Member, Oregon Chapter of U.S. Lacrosse (2004–2007)
  • Inducted in U.S. Lacrosse Oregon Chapter, Lacrosse Hall of Fame (2016)

Outside Interests

Officiating college, post-collegiate and high school lacrosse.

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