Harold K. (Hal) Watson
T: (713) 546-9800
watson@chaffe.com Download VCard

Areas of Practice

  • Admiralty
  • Commercial Litigation
  • Real Estate


L.L.M., Yale University Law School, 1977
J.D., Louisiana State University Law School, 1974
B.A., Louisiana State University, 1971

Professional Memberships

- Maritime Law Association of the U.S.
- International Association of Defense Counsel
- Houston Bar Association
- Association of Average Adjusters Planning Committee, Houston Marine Insurance Seminar
- Program Committee, Tulane Admiralty Law Institute

Bar Admissions

- Louisiana
- Texas
- U.S. District Courts for the Southern and Eastern Districts of Texas and for the Eastern, Middle, and Western Districts of Louisiana
- U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Third, Fifth, Tenth, and Eleventh Circuits
- Supreme Court of the United States

Harold K. (Hal) Watson

Currently serving as President of the Maritime Law Association of the United States, Hal Watson is a partner in Chaffe McCall's Houston office and a member of the firm's Admiralty section. He focuses his practice on areas of maritime law, with a special emphasis in marine and energy insurance law. His experience includes handling matters related to marine and energy insurance claims in numerous states across the U.S., as well as claims in Canada, Mexico, Peru, Venezuela, Colombia, Australia, New Zealand, Bangladesh, Egypt, Nigeria, and other countries. He is recognized as one of the world's leading authority on removal of wreck claims, having been lead counsel in Continental Oil Company v. Bonanza Corp., 706 F.2d 1365 (5th Cir. 1983) and Grupo Protexa, S.A. v. All American Marine Slip, 20 F.3d 1224 (3rd Cir. 1994). He has also served as lead counsel for the London insurance market on wreck-removal issues in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Hal has handled significant claims involving:

  • Builders' risk
  • Hull damage
  • Protection and indemnity
  • General average
  • General and excess liability
  • Control-of-well and other energy insurance claims 

Hal graduated third in his class from Louisiana State University Law School, where he served as an associate editor of the Louisiana Law Review, and authored articles that have been cited by the Supreme Court of the United States.  He started his legal career as a law clerk to the Hon. Alvin B. Rubin of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. After his postgraduate work at Yale Law School, he joined the Admiralty section at an international law firm with offices throughout the country. 


  • Seahawk Liquidating Trust v. Certain Underwriters at Lloyds London, 810 F.3d 986 (5th Cir. 2016)
    Successfully defending underwriters in claim for physical damage to a drilling rig, and establishing requirement of proximate cause in definition of “occurrence.”
  • Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Starr Indemnity & Liability Ins. Co., 2016 AMC 351 (S.D. Tex. 2015)
    Successfully upholding removal of case to federal court on the basis of admiralty jurisdiction.
  • Ministry of Oil of the Republic of Iraq v. 1,032,212 Barrels of Crude Oil Aboard the United Kalavrvta, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 118249 (S.D. Tex. 2014) Successfully obtaining dismissal on behalf of the Kurdistan Regional Government of in rem claim against cargo of crude oil for lack of admiralty jurisdiction.
  • Axis Ins. Co. v. Buffalo Marine Servs., 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 132333 (S.D. Tex. 2013)
    Successfully obtaining summary judgment on behalf of excess underwriters that bunker contamination claims constituted multiple “occurrences.”
  • Northern California Power Agency v. Altatrock Energy Inc. and Lloyd’s of London ; In the Superior Court of Marin County, Califonia; Case No. Civ. 1101102; Sept. 12, 2012
    Successfully obtaining summary judgment for London market underwriters in a control-of-well case.


  • Speaker, "Wreck Removal in the 21st Century: Liability and Coverage Issues," Houston Marine Insurance Seminar, (September 22, 2009)
  • Author, "Modern Practice Considerations in Maritime Personal Injury Litigation: Procedural Weapons for Venue Battles, 68 Tulane Law Review. 473 (1994)
  • Author, "A Course Change to Starboard: New Directions in Maritime Conflict Resolution in the United States," New Directions in Maritime Law (1984)
  • Author, "Transnational Maritime Litigation: Selected Problems," 8 The Maritime Lawyer (1983)
  • Author, "Applicable Law in Suits by Foreign Offshore Workers," 41 Louisiana Law Review. 827 (1981)
  • Author, "The 1976 IMCO Limitation Convention: A Comparative View," 15 Hous. L. Rev. 249 (1978)
  • Author, "Broadened Coverage Under the LHWCA, 33 Louisiana Law Review 683 (1973) (cited in Northeast Terminal Corp. v. Caputo, 432 U.S. 249 (1977); and Director v.Perini North River Associates, 459 U.S. 297, (1983))


  • Named as Houston "Lawyer of the Year" for Admiralty and Maritime Law by Best Lawyers in America, 2013, 2014, 2017  
  • Selected for inclusion in Who's Who Legal for Transport: Shipping, 2016
  • Selected for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America for Admiralty and Maritime Law, 2006-2017
  • Named as one of five "go to" maritime lawyers in Texas by Texas Lawyer
  • Selected for inclusion in Texas Super Lawyers, 2011 - 2016
  • AV Preeminent® Peer Review Rating in Martindale-Hubbell
  • Distinguished Graduate, United States Army Air Defense Artillery Officer Basic School, 1974


  • President, Maritime Law Association of the United States (First Vice President, 2014, Second Vice President, 2012-2014; Secretary, 2008-12; Director, 2004-07; Chair, Committee on Maritime Legislation, 1999-2002)
  • Captain, United States Army Reserve (Retired)
  • Former Chairman, Prisoner Services Committee
  • Former Vestryman, Christ Church Cathedral (Episcopal)
  • Former Director, Episcopal Foundation of Texas
  • Former Director, Annunciation Orthodox School