W. Gary Wharton Partner

Prior to practicing law, Gary completed his Masters Degree in Marine Biology which included thesis research in the area of sub-tidal population dynamics. At the same time, he operated his own company doing contract research and was a commercial diver. For more than 25 years, Gary has been practicing maritime law as a litigator and solicitor. He has been counsel on several major marine casualty cases and his practice encompasses all areas of maritime law, including collision, salvage, marine pollution, port state control, personal injury, class actions, vessel construction, aquaculture, tenure of sub tidal lands, charterparty disputes and marine insurance. Gary also has significant experience in the area of non-marine insurance, fire and property loss.

Gary has previously advised the Government of Vietnam on their legislative regime for marine transportation and environmental management (1993–2000) and was an invited Speaker/Advisor to the Technical Working Group (Shipping, Navigation and Communication) of the Initiative for Resolving Conflicts in the South China Sea (Jakarta 1995; Brunei 1996). Gary is a Past Chair of the Maritime Law Section of the Canadian Bar Association (BC Branch) and has taught Fisheries Law as an adjunct professor for several years at the University of British Columbia Law School.

He has been a Trustee of the Vancouver Maritime Museum and Honorary Solicitor of the West Vancouver Yacht Club (2000–2010), Vice Commodore (2011), and Commodore (2012).

Gary has been a regular contributor to the publication Harbour & Shipping and writes and speaks frequently to industry groups on areas of maritime law.

Representative Cases

Kruger Products Ltd. v. First Choice Logistics Inc. et al, 2013 BCCA 3 Subject: Commercial law — Bailment — Insurance — Duties of bailee — Storage and warehousing — Appeal by defendants from judgment awarded in favour of plaintiff allowed — Plaintiff stored paper products in warehouse operated by defendant FCL — Warehouse destroyed by fire after paper debris was ignited by forvklift — Trial judge did not err in determining cause of fire — Trial judge erred in finding subrogated claim against FCL was not barred by application of insurance provisions in warehousing agreement — FCL had insurable interest in property given exposure to liability under agreement — Express wording that insurance was primary coverage was intended for FCL's benefit and strengthened its case for tort immunity.

Grieg Shipping A/S v. Dubai Fortune (Ship), 2012 FC 110 (CanLII): Acted as lead counsel in defending the Plaintiff’s appeal of the trial judgment dismissing its claim in its entirety. Maritime and admiralty law — Navigation and marine damage — Liability — Shipowner — Civil liability — Tort — Navigation negligence — Anchoring — Collision with stationary ship — Negligence — Action by owner of struck ship for damages for negligence dismissed — Tug struck moored ship while assisting in berthing of ship under compulsory pilotage — Owner of struck ship claimed that owner of ship being birthed was vicariously liable — Owner of struck ship did not make out control test — Evidence of pilots and tugmasters involved in berthing was that pilots gave no orders to tugmaster of tug and only general orders to tugmasters of assist tugs.

Kotai v. Queen of the North (Ship), 2010 BCSC 1180

McDonald v. Queen of the North (Ship), 2008 BCSC 1777. Supreme Court of British Columbia: Subject: Class Action; Fatal Accidents; Athens Convention: Availability of Punitive Damages; Damages for Psychological Damage and post Traumatic Stress; Related Action deals with Aboriginal Title to Sub Tidal lands.

Mercury Launch & Tug v. Texada Quarrying Ltd., 2006 FC 464. Subject: Property; Contracts; Public; Personal property — Bailment and warehousing — Bailment distinguished from other relationships — Miscellaneous; Maritime and admiralty law — Harbours and docks — Duty towards users.

Matson Navigation Co. v. Victoria Shipyards Co., 2001 BCSC 1344. Subject: Duty of shipyard; Negligence; Standard of seamanship.

Professional and Other Affiliations

  • Called to the Bar of British Columbia, 1986
  • Law Society of British Columbia, Member
  • Canadian Bar Association, Member, Past Chair of Maritime Law Section (BC)
  • Canadian Maritime Law Association, Member, Past Chair Maritime Security Sub Committee
  • Vancouver Maritime Museum, Trustee, 2006-2010
  • West Vancouver Yacht Club, Honorary Solicitor (2000-2010); Vice Commodore (2011), Commodore (2012)
  • Gary has been recognized by his peers as a leading practitioner in the field of Maritime Law and has been listed in The Best Lawyers in Canada, Who’s Who Legal Canada, and Canadian Legal Lexpert Directory.

Author and Speaker

  • Frequent contributor to Harbour & Shipping and BC Shipping magazines
  • Exxon Valdez: Punitive Damages under US Law, December 2008
  • Compensation for Emotional or Psychological Harm, January/February 2010
  • Marine Environmental Regulation in Canadian Arctic Waters, Maritime Arctic 2010 Conference, The Nautical Institute, Victoria, May 2010
  • Advanced Marine Liability Coverage and Claims course, Insurance Brokers Association of British Columbia, Vancouver, April 2010
  • TULA Meeting, Vancouver, March 2010
  • Claims for Psychological Injury, Focus on Concussion - Psychological/Psychiatric, Vancouver, January 2011
  • Maritime Law Seminar for Federal Court and Court of Appeal Judges, National Judicial Institute, Ottawa, April 2011

Other Interests

Mucking around on boats, archery, skiing and old roadsters.

W. Gary Wharton

Areas of Practice


  • B.Sc., Dalhousie University (Honours in Biology), 1977
  • M.Sc. (Marine Biology), 1980
  • LL.B., Dalhousie University, 1985