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Managing Director, Litigation Lawyer

John Bugeja

John acts as the firm’s managing director, having been involved with the company since 2002. He deals with all aspects of shipping litigation, including both P&I and FD&D issues, marine insurance and coverage disputes and other shipping-related commercial disputes.

John advises on ship arrests, forced sale of vessels, demurrage claims, charter party disputes, stevedore damage and other incidents caused by third-parties, personal injury, crew illness and death, as well as carriage of goods disputes and cargo claims.

John is a qualified advocate in Malta.


2012 – Presented with Warrant to exercise the profession of advocate in the Courts of Malta and Gozo.

2011 – Graduated Doctor of Laws (LL.D) from the University of Malta after submission of LL.D thesis entitled ‘Collisions at Sea: Regulations and Defences’.

2011 – Master of Laws (LL.M) in International Maritime Law with distinction conferred by the IMO’s International Maritime Law Institute in Malta.

2009 – Graduated Diploma of Notary Public from the University of Malta.

2008 – Graduated Bachelor of Laws and European Studies from the University of Malta.


Direct: (+356) 2540 7204
Mobile: (+356) 7904 7880
Email:  john.bugeja@hvassallo.com

Director, Litigation Lawyer

Abigail Bugeja

Abigail qualified as an advocate in Malta in March 2011. She advises on all issues arising in relation to admiralty and shipping disputes, insurance, insolvency and contractual disputes with an international dimension.

She advises shipowners and operators, P&I Clubs and insurers, on a wide range of issues relating to personal injury claims, MLC disputes including abandonment of seafarers, collision and pollution incidents, cargo disputes, judicial sales of vessels.

Abigail has significant experience of litigation including Civil Court and Court of Appeal hearings, and has advised on numerous ship arrests and injunctions pursuant to Article 37 of the Merchant Shipping Act. In addition, she has experience of managing cross-border litigation, working closely with foreign counsel.

Abigail started off her career as an advocate with particular focus on ship and yacht registration and sales and acquisitions of vessels as well as the formation and support of shipping organisations and companies, regularly assisting clients in corporate matters and M&A transactions. She assisted major financial institutions and owners in the financing of vessels and ancillary issues.



2015 – Master of Arts in Law with distinction conferred by the University of Malta

2011 – Presented with Warrant to exercise the profession of advocate in the Courts of Malta and Gozo.

2010 – Graduated Doctor of Laws (LL.D) from the University of Malta after submission of LL.D thesis entitled ‘The Legal Regimes governing Offshore Installations.’

2008 – Graduated Diploma of Notary Public from the University of Malta.

2007 – Graduated Bachelor of Laws and European Studies from the University of Malta.



  • Admitted to the Maltese Bar, Superior Courts of Malta
  • Member of Chamber of Advocates
  • Member of Shiparrested.com
  • Member of International Association of Young Lawyers (AIJA)



  • Direct: (+356) 2540 7302
  • Mobile: (+356) 7990 3264
  • Email: abigail.bugeja@hvassallo.com

Claims Manager

Joe Buhagiar

Joe is the longest serving employee at Vassallo Associates, having joined back in 1987, where he has consistently proved himself as a leading claims manager primarily involved in matters concerning damage to third parties, crew and stevedore medical complications, pre-shipment inspections, cross stuffing and tallying surveys, liability claims handling, adjustment and settlement of cargo claims, and other general disputes. His attendance and surveying expertise are paramount in safeguarding the clients’ interests, which includes the Protection and Indemnity (P&I) Insurance clubs on behalf of vessels calling into Maltese Ports and Territorial Waters.

On a day to day basis, Joe’s agility to adapt to challenges presented by new matters and technologies makes him the ideal candidate to provide tailored solutions to clients by offering his expert advice with claims and other potential incidents which might involve asset damage and business interruptions.

Prior to joining Vassallo Associates, Joe was also employed within a local insurance agency, providing expertise within the claims department, for over five years. This puts Joe at the forefront of insurance claims management with experience of over thirty-eight years.

Apart from the decades of experience, he holds certificates for Quality Auditing (ISO), Health and Safety, Marine Insurance, First Aid, Management & Competence and Cargo Surveying.


Direct: +356 2540 7201
Mobile: +356 9944 2703
Email: joe.buhagiar@hvassallo.com

Claims Manager

Joe Cassano

Joe’s excellent communication skill set, together with a respectable decision-making aptitude, provides clients with the ultimate tailor-made support for claims ranging from potential incidents involving asset damage to business interruptions, potentially leading to third party claims.

Throughout his career, Joe was involved in quality auditing and surveying. During his tenure as a surveyor, he was responsible for damage surveys, pre-shipment inspections, cross stuffing surveys, tallying surveys, refrigerated and frozen cargo surveys, liability claims handling, adjustment and settlement of cargo claims and recovery action. His unparalleled customer relationship abilities and substantial experience in claims management provides cargo clients with the best possible support and solutions thereby ensuring an optimal level of service.

Whilst working in quality administration, Joe also gained extensive experience in ensuring adherence to cargo procedures, customer satisfaction monitoring and internal audits, making him the perfect candidate to ensure that a company’s objectives and goals are achieved.

Apart from the decades of experience, he holds certificates for Quality Auditing (ISO), Health and Safety, Marine Insurance, First Aid, Management & Competence and Cargo Surveying.


Direct: +356 2540 7202
Mobile: +356 9945 9716
Email: joe.cassano@hvassallo.com

Marine Engineer and Naval Architect

Paul Buhagiar

Having graduated as a mechanical engineer and a naval architect, together with over seven years of experience working in the marine industry, Paul endeavours in providing expertise to third parties by using a skill base and aptitudes within both the engineering and maritime sectors.

His experience in the maritime industry kickstarted as a Flag and Port State Control inspector within the Maltese Maritime Flag Administration – Transport Malta, the largest merchant shipping Flag Register in Europe and the sixth largest in the World, inspecting cargo ships, tankers, ro-ro ferries and passenger ships for compliance with International Regulations.

Paul moved on to a shore position within a chemical tanker ship management office, where his primary responsibility for the following four years, was introducing processes and procedures within the Company’s Safety Management System to comply with the OCIMF Vetting Inspection Questionnaire (VIQ) guidelines, and the Tanker Management Self-Assessment (TMSA), as marine superintendent. He was also responsible in ensuring that company vessels are in line with the said requirements by undertaking constant internal vetting inspections on board company vessels and attending for external oil major inspections in the likes of REPSOL, LUKOIL and BP.

Paul has also provided marine consultancy services throughout the marine industry, including overseeing loadout operations as lashing consultant and attending on behalf of Protection and Indemnity (P&I) and Hull and Machinery (H&M) Clubs specialising in machinery malfunctions and damages to hull and other load line requirements.


2020 NEBOSH – International General Certificate in Occupational Health and Safety
2017 IRCA QMS Auditor / Lead Auditor, Lloyd’s Register
2015 ISM Lead Auditor, Lloyd’s Register
2013 Master of Science (M.Sc.) – Naval Architecture, University of Southampton
2012 Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering (B.Eng. (Hons.)), University of Malta


Direct: +356 2540 7203
Mobile: +356 9983 4890
Email: paul.buhagiar@hvassallo.com

Master Mariner

Clive Mallia

Clive is a master mariner with an excellent reputation of providing consultancy services within the maritime industry. In his experience, Clive specializes in Ship Management internal, external and Tanker Management Self-Assessment (TMSA) Audits, together with a strong merit for introducing new processes, procedures and statutory manuals to product and gas tanker ship management offices. His experience within the tanker industry has also presented him with numerous opportunities of attending to bunker surveys.

Having passed countless OCIMF SIRE Vetting inspections throughout his years of working within the tanker industry, Clive has also successfully provided internal vetting services to tanker ship management offices, by preparing both vessel and crew in obtaining exceptional results from vetting inspections carried out by highly regarded oil majors such as REPSOL, ENI, LUKOIL, BP and CEPSA.

Apart from experience within the marine compliance sector, Clive is also an approved TEEKAY mooring master, specializing in gas tankers ship to ship (STS) operations, whilst forming part of the Professional Nautical Services Coop Ltd., providing expertise to oil and chemical tanker mooring masters during STS operations.

All the above experiences have also led Clive to the Nautical Institute, where he is also called upon to lecture OOW students as visiting lecturer.


2014      Master Unlimited (STCW Reg. II/2, as amended)


Office: +356 2540 7900
Mobile: +356 7959 3692
Email: clive.mallia@hvassallo.com

Master Mariner

Gordon Ghirxi

A Master Mariner for the past twenty years, Gordon has extensive experience working in various sectors within the marine industry. After having spent his first eleven years working on board ships in all ranks, Gordon was subsequently employed in a ship management office, where he became well versed in various roles ranging from marine superintendent to fleet operations manager, the latter of which proved highly beneficial to the company after having graduated as a Master in Business Administration in 2008.

Having undertaken specific training relating to incident investigation and risk assessments, Gordon is a member of a pool of experts who has on countless occasions attended to incident investigations on behalf of Marine Safety Investigation Units, Protection and Indemnity (P&I) Clubs, Hull and Machinery (H&M) and cargo insurers, where his experience working in the tanker industry has proved fundamental in delivering a high degree of expertise to our clients, whilst proposing recommendations for the prevention of incident recurrence to the industry as best practice guidance.

Gordon has over the years conducted technical inspections and suitability survey reports for oil and gas tankers and DP platform support vessels assessing the suitability of ships for charterers and buyers.

Apart from having the necessary experience in both ship management and incident investigations, Gordon has also provided professional advice and guidance to masters of vessels participating in ship to ship operations as STS Superintendent.

His expertise in the industry is exploited through education and training by delivering courses related to oil, chemical and gas industries, and is also an examiner at the local maritime administration preparing examination papers for navigation, cargo operations, port operations and cargo handling stowage and securing.



2008      Master in Business Administration
2002      IRCA QMS Internal Auditor
2000      Master Unlimited (STCW Reg. II/2, as amended)


Office: +356 2540 7900
Mobile: +356 9925 0067
Email: gordon.ghirxi@hvassallo.com

Consultant Master Mariner

Joe Gabriele

Joe started his career at sea in 1983 and served in all ranks onboard various types of world-wide trading ships for over eighteen years, the last five as master. Following his years at sea, Joe worked within ship management serving as marine superintendent, fleet manager and director for a fleet of ships including tankers, offshore supply vessels and high-speed ro-ro passenger crafts.

During his time working ashore within a ship management office, Joe was involved in new buildings, dry-dockings and conversion of ships. This experience is essential when attending as an expert on behalf of Protection and Indemnity (P&I) and Hull and Machinery (H&M) Clubs, enabling him to provide accurate analysis of an incident and any relevant costings to our principals.

Having obtained his Master of Laws Degree combined with his technical expertise, he has comprehensive, first-hand experience and knowledge of the complex interplay between the various interests involved in the maritime sector, enabling him to provide an efficient, cost optimised and exceptional standard of service based on sound principles of confidentiality, discretion and professionalism.

He is an appointed marine expert and investigating officer by the Law Courts and the Marine Safety Investigation Unit of Malta, respectively and a member of the Malta Maritime Law Association, sitting on the Merchant Shipping, Salvage and MLC 2006 sub committees.

In addition to marine consultancy and surveying work, Joe has also lectured at the Maritime Institute in Malta on the subjects of ship stability, construction, orals, Colregs and maritime law.


2012 Master of Laws (LL.M).
1997 Master Unlimited (STCW Reg. II/2, as amended)

Contact Details

Office: +356 2540 7900
Mobile: +356 9943 5982
Email: joe.gabriele@hvassallo.com

Dan Breger

Principal Consultant

Dan Breger

Dan, an MBA level educated Security Management expert with Chartered Engineer status (CEng), has demonstrated time and time again his passion for deciphering complex systems and applying the rigour of process, risk and change management to achieve tangible results in effectively managing security and resilience.

His expertise in Leadership and Business Development, Governance, Assurance, Risk Management, and ISO 27001 combined with his extensive work in Corporate Security and Crisis Management with several of the global ‘big 4’ accounting firms, Dan has successfully assisted clients achieve ISO 27001 compliance whilst ensuring operational resilience to their supply chain, personnel and physical security. This is done through his proficiency in risk assessments, internal audits, coaching and educating, which is only possible through his extensive training and qualifications such as the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), ISO 27001 Lead Auditor, Business Continuity Institute Certification (CBCI), and Lean Six Sigma Black Belt training.

Dan is also an Associate Lecturer at the Open University in the Faculty of Law & Business, teaching several undergraduate and postgraduate modules concerning Business Administration.


MBA (Technology Management), Open University
MSc Biometrics, University of Westminster
Diploma Security Management, University of Leicester


Office: +44 (0) 203 786 2131
Mobile: +44 (0) 797 167 8039
Email: dan.breger@hvassallo.com

Senior Consultant

David Hall

Having served as managing director for a quality management system consultancy firm for over a decade, David has offered his expertise to various industries in the development, implementation and monitoring of quality management systems, which includes Computing firms, Governmental Institutions and aerospace organisations.

David’s background and qualifications in mechanical engineering, occupational health and safety, and business management provides our customers with the ability of establishing the necessary processes and safe systems of work, ensuring their competence in complying to the highest of industry standards is achieved in the shortest possible time frame.

His “Management of Change” skills, has assisted companies in implementing major alterations in their business models both in terms of systems applications and process changes. Having been registered as a BSI ACP consultant, his assistance has covered a wide range of industries that includes manufacturing, construction, retail, security, marketing and public services.

Up to the time of writing this profile, David has exhibited a 100% success rate in the implementation of standards certification into National and International Businesses, providing our clients with the optimal solutions in achieving the necessary qualification standards.


MBA Masters in Business Administration
DipMS Diploma Management Studies
IOSH Institute of Occupational Safety Health
HND Mechanical Engineering

Office: +44 (0) 203 786 2131
Mobile: +44 (0) 778 998 2721
Email: david.hall@hvassallo.com

Senior Management Systems Consultant

Daisy Delaney

Daisy has extensive experience in the engineering sector including the civil and structural, rail, shipbuilding and oil & gas industries in production, installation, construction and operations departments for supermajors including BP, Shell and Exxon on some of the largest engineering projects in the world including Shah Deniz II and Yamal LNG.

Having studied MSc Subsea Engineering at University of Aberdeen and with experience gained producing engineering drawings and on site locations around the world including Singapore and Angola, Daisy has a deep understanding of technical issues and experience in Risk Management in projects and operations including HAZOP, HIRA, HAZID, FMEA and Fault Tree Analysis (FTA).

In addition to engineering expertise, Daisy has many years’ experience of management systems for Quality, Information Security, Occupational Health & Safety and Environment across the sector and is an IRCA Lead Auditor for ISO 9001:2015, ISO 45001: 2018, ISO 14001:2015 and ISO 27001:2013, this latter demonstrating a detailed understanding of Information Security requirements whilst undertaking confidential work on behalf of clients.


MSc Level (University of Aberdeen): Safety Engineering & Risk Management Concepts
IOSH (Institute of Occupational Safety & Health) International Certificate in Managing Safely
NEBOSH (National Examination Board in Occupational Safety & Health) International General Certificate in Occupational Health & Safety
Safety Observations & Conversations for Leaders (BP International)
MIST (Minimum Industry Safety Training) Offshore UK Sector North Sea inc. Helicopter Safety
HUET (Helicopter Underwater Escape Training) (Petrofac)
Step Change In Safety – Helicopter Safety Awareness
ISO 45001:2015 Lead Auditor
OHSAS 18001:2007 Lead Auditor
ISO 9001:2015 Lead Auditor
ISO 14001:2015 Lead Auditor
ISO 27001:2013 Lead Auditor


Office: +44 (0) 203 786 2131
Mobile: +44 (0) 730 848 0053
Email: daisy.delaney@hvassallo.com