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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 7203
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.

Paul is also an appointed Government Surveyor acting on behalf of Transport Malta. In this capacity, he inspects yachts for compliance to the Maltese Flag requirements as set out in the Commercial Yacht Code.


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


Direct: +356 2540 7202
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.


2012Master of Laws (LL.M).
1997Master 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

Marine and Offshore Engineer, Surveyor

Alan Vassallo

Alan holds a mechanical engineering degree from the University of Malta and has also graduated at Masters level in floating offshore systems at Strathclyde University, Glasgow. Throughout his professional career has acquired extensive experience in several areas of the marine and offshore (oil & gas) industry.

Alan started off his career as an asset integrity engineer and later served as offshore inspection engineer with an internationally-accredited oil and gas service company within the UK and Norwegian oil and gas sector where he was responsible for the integrity management of FPSO units. During his time as offshore inspection engineer onboard North Sea FPSOs he led teams of NDT technicians, vibration analysts, rope access technicians and maintenance personnel whilst carrying out visual and non-destructive inspections of hull, topsides and pressure systems.  He acted as the client’s focal point for any anomalous findings and whenever consultancy on hull and plant integrity, part replacement or modification was required.

He later took on the role of marine technical superintendent with a ship management company, being responsible for a small fleet of oil and chemical tankers.  As technical superintendent Alan was responsible for ensuring the highest operational efficiency of the vessels under his remit with minimum downtime. He ensured the company’s Safety Management System was being implemented and that preventive and corrective maintenance was being done correctly, timely and within budget. He was also responsible for the regular inspections of vessels under his remit, for the preparation of dry docking specifications and for attending dry dockings to ensure good workmanship and that repair / refit scopes of work were carried out fully, within budget and within the allocated timeframes. He was directly involved in the sourcing, design, installation, commissioning and maintenance of Ballast Water Treatment plants as required by international maritime law.

Alan has worked closely with oil majors during vetting inspections and has assisted the organisation he has worked with to continuously improve its Safety Management System and be made compliant to the Tanker Management Self-Assessment (TMSA) requirements.


2013 – Master’s Degree in Floating Offshore Systems
University of Strathclyde, Glasgow

2012 – Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering
University of Malta.

Certification & Training

2018 – Planning & Managing a Dry Docking for Superintendents, DNV-GL

2016 – Ultrasonic Inspection 3.1, 3.2 Level II, ASNT

2015 – Liquid Penetrant Inspection Level II, ASNT

2015 – Visual Inspection Level II, ASNT

2014 – ASME Plant Inspector Level 1, ASME

2014 – Confined Space Entry, IOSH

2014 – HSE Supervisors Training Course (Including Incident Investigation), Oceaneering


Ursula Smith

Co-Head of DP, Principal Surveyor

Ursula Smith

Ursula has been employed in the marine industry all her working life, the last fourteen years as a marine surveyor.
Ursula is a co-founder of Dynamic Surveys which started in 2010. This became the DP division within Vassallo Associates in 2021.
Dynamic Surveys undertakes all types of DP work, IHM, eCMID inspections.

Ursula originally trained as a radio officer and has positions both ashore and at sea. Her experience ranges from vessel ownership and management, where she was responsible for ISM, ISPS, Class and Flag requirements, together with the general efficient and cost-effective running of the company vessels, refit projects, suitability surveys and other technical management services.

Ursula is a DP surveyor with extensive experience in writing FMEAs, DP Operations manuals, carrying out annual FMEA proving and reverfication trials.

She is a DNV-approved HAZMAT Surveyor and has carried out numerous IHM inspections on behalf of international clientele. She covers the entire process from the preliminary stages of preparing a ship specific Visual Sampling Check Plan, the actual attendance on board the vessel to collect samples, and preparing the final report for submission to class. She is an IMCA approved AVI eCMID inspector and has conducted inspection on many types of offshore vessels.


DPO basic/DP Maintenance
ISM/ISPS Lead Auditor
Diploma in Marine Surveying (IIMS)
Master’s Degree in Business Administration (MBA)
BTEC Diploma and HNC in Marine Electronics and Electrical Systems
Marine Radio General Certificate (MRGC)


Co-Head of DP, Principal Surveyor

Hugh Raynor

A master mariner for over 30 years, Hugh has extensive experience in working with offshore vessels, both on board as Captain, and also as a marine surveyor.
Hugh is a co-founder of Dynamic Surveys, which became the DP division within Vassallo Associates.
Hugh is an IMCA approved DP practitioner and writes FMEAs, vessel-specific DP operation manuals and DP trials programmes. He conducts DP trials on a variety of vessels.
He is a HAZMAT expert, approved by DNV, and carries out IHM surveys. He is also an IMCA approved AVI eCMID inspector and has conducted inspection on many types of offshore vessels.

Over the years Hugh has been heavily involved in marine consultancy, conducting technical inspections, suitability surveys and CMID audits.


STCW 95 Master’s Certificate (Unlimited)
Dynamic Positioning Certificate (Unrestricted)
IMCA approved DP practitioner
IMCA approved AVI eCMID inspector


Management Systems Consultant

Mike Heath

After graduating with a Mechanical Engineering degree at Loughborough University, Mike built up a career in Quality Management at the world’s leading manufacturer of pneumatic and motion control technology, with a global reputation for innovation.

He started out as a Quality Engineer at the business which was focused on helping customers countrywide to solve their factory automation challenges, offering solutions from a range of 12,000 standard items (with some 700,000 variations) and bespoke products for specialised requirements. As a Quality Engineer, Mike focussed on metrology, product nonconformance investigations, supplier management, and internal auditing.

Subsequently, Mike took on the role of Quality Manager overseeing Quality Assurance, Quality Inspection, Environmental and Health & Safety teams, and was responsible for reporting on QHSE performance, leading process improvement projects, customer complaints and investigations (root cause analysis, CAPA, 8D), APQP & PPAP, fulfilling compliance obligations, continuous improvement and supplier audits.

He was responsible for implementing, maintaining and integrating certified management systems ISO9001:2015, ISO14001:2015, and ISO45001:2018, while simultaneously completing an MSc in Strategic Quality Management at the University of Portsmouth, graduating with distinction.


MSc Strategic Quality Management, University of Portsmouth
BEng Mechanical Engineering, Loughborough University


Chartered Quality Professional – Member, Chartered Quality Institute
ISO9001:2015 Lead Auditor, Lloyd’s Register
ISO14001:2015 Lead Auditor, Lloyd’s Register
ISO45001:2018 Lead Auditor, Lloyd’s Register
Core Tools Certification, Industry Forum
PRINCE2 Foundation, The Knowledge Academy


Office: +44 (0) 203 786 2131
Mobile: +44 (0) 793 504 5359
Email: mike.heath@hvassallo.com

Joe Buhagiar


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