James C. Arnold


James Arnold concentrates his practice in admiralty and maritime/offshore business and contractual matters and has over 38 years of experience advising clients in:

  • vessel and drilling rig construction, financing, documentation, and repair
  • international onshore and offshore drilling and exploration and energy infrastructure projects
  • marine insurance, salvage, oil spill, and emergency disaster coordination and response
  • crude oil and refined products transportation and terminaling agreements, vessel and barge chartering, long term COAs, master service agreements, and a wide variety of other maritime contracts
  • legal oversight of a wide variety of international and domestic inland, ocean, and offshore tanker and barge and dry cargo shipping operations

Senior Counsel, Saudi Arabian Oil Company (Saudi Aramco)

Prior to rejoining private practice in 2011, Jim served as in-house Senior Counsel for the Saudi Arabian Oil Company (Saudi Aramco) from 1995 to 2010. In this role, he:

  • served as Associate General Counsel, Secretary and principal legal adviser to Saudi Aramco’s wholly-owned tanker subsidiary Vela International Marine Limited, which operated a fleet of 50+ owned and chartered VLCCs and MR/Aframax product tankers operating worldwide, including oversight of a 20-ship newbuilding program and sale of 21 older vessels as part of a fleet replacement program over a 10 year period 
  • served as legal adviser to the Saudi Aramco Marine Department and Saudi Aramco Contracting and Project Management Departments, with legal oversight of numerous onshore and offshore energy infrastructure construction and operations projects and offshore vessels and drilling rig newbuilding contracts and sales
  • served as principal legal adviser for the Saudi Aramco Global Oil Spill Response Organization and Crisis Response Team
  • served for eight years as Saudi Aramco’s representative to the Oil Companies International Marine Forum (“OCIMF”) Legal Committee

U.S. Navy

Jim is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and served seven years as an officer in the United States Navy, including four years of sea duty as a Surface Warfare Officer with sea duty in Vietnam and the Western Pacific and three years as an instructor and Assistant Professor of Naval Science at the Department of Naval Science, California Maritime Academy.

Outside the Firm

Jim is a member of the Houston and Austin chapters of the U.S. Naval Academy Alumni Association. He lives in the country with his wife of 20 years in historic Fayette County, Texas, and is the proud grandfather to three grandchildren.


  • Principal legal adviser to Vela International Marine Limited in connection with its $2.5 Billion 20-ship single hull VLCC and MR Product Tanker double hull replacement program from 2000 to 2010, including legal oversight of vessel construction bidding process for all 20 newbuilding vessels, drafting and negotiating all building contracts with shipyards in the Korea and Western Europe, and oversight of all legal issues and vessel documentation during construction and delivery.
  • Principal legal adviser to Saudi Aramco in connection with a $500 million project for construction of a jack up maintenance barge and offshore jack-up drilling rig in Singapore, including oversight of bidding program, drafting and negotiation of building contracts and oversight of all legal issues and vessel documentation during construction and delivery. 
  • Principal legal adviser to Vela and Saudi Aramco in the secondhand sale of 13 single hull VLCCs and recycling (sale for scrap) of 4 MR Product Tankers and 4 VLCCs with total contract values in excess of $300 million.
  • Acted as team leader in negotiating the ransom and release of a fully loaded VLCC and crew from Somali pirates.
  • Served as Saudi Aramco representative to the OCIMF Legal Committee from 2002 to 2010.
  • Served as principal legal adviser to the Regional Clean Seas Organization (“RECSO”) in the Middle East from 2002 to 2010, including redrafting of the organizational charter in 2005.
  • Currently serving as legal adviser to a major international offshore contractor in connection with a multimillion dollar offshore infrastructure project in the Middle East involving a state-owned oil company.
  • Currently serving on a team of legal advisers in connection with a $200 million cruise ship newbuilding and chartering program for an international cruise ship owner/operator.
  • Recently acted as one of two lawyers in the firm for the buyer of a $180 million offshore jack up drilling rig, involving contract negotiations with seller, rig delivery and documentation, and drafting and negotiation of a rig refurbishment contract with a foreign shipyard and a heavy lift contract for transport of the rig to U.S. waters.



  • Maritime Law Association of the United States
  • State Bar of Texas
Professional Activities
  • Texas Bar Association—Member in good standing 1979 to present
  • Houston Bar Association—Member 2011 to present
  • Maritime Law Association of the U.S. (“MLA”), Proctor in Admiralty—1981 to present
  • Presenter, UT CLE seminar, American Petroleum Institute (“API”) Tanker Conference
  • Presenter, Southeastern Admiralty Law Institute (“SEALI”) Annual Legal Seminar on vessel piracy in the Indian Ocean 



    • Texas


    • U.S. Naval Academy, BS
    • University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law, JD