Written By : Shahreyar Osmani
Admiralty law, also called maritime law, is a combination of U.S. and international law that covers all contracts, torts, injuries or offenses that take place on navigable waters. Admiralty law traditionally focused on oceanic issues, but it has expanded to cover any public body of water, including lakes and rivers. These laws largely cover interactions between two or more ships, the ship captain’s obligations to the crew and passengers, and the rights of crew members, as well as other legal issues.
How It Works
In most nations, maritime law follows a separate code and is an independent jurisdiction from national laws. The United Nations(UN), through the International Maritime Organization (IMO), has presented numerous conventions that can be enforced by the navies and coast guards of countries that have signed the treaty outlining these rules. Maritime law regulates many of the insurance claims relating to ships and cargo; civil matters between ship owners, seamen, and passengers; and piracy.
Additionally, maritime law regulates day to day activities of the ships/vessels for example registration, license, and inspection procedures for ships and shipping contracts; maritime insurance; and the carriage of goods and passengers.
The International Maritime Organization (IMO) (established in 1948 as the Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultative Organization, and coming into force in 1958) is accountable for ensuring that existing international maritime conventions are kept up to date, as well as developing new agreements as and when the need arises.
Today, there are dozens of conventions regulating all aspects of maritime commerce and transport. The IMO names three conventions as its core:
Admiralty Law In UK
England admiralty courts dates to atleast the 1360s from the rule of Edward III. At that time there were three courts for admiralty matters which were chosen by the admirals who were responsible for the waters in the north, south and west of England. In 1483 these local courts were diminished and formed into a single high court of admiralty. The English admiralty courts is a common law. Around the 1750 the industrial revolution started. The English commerce became stronger, the admiralty courts played an important part in new ideas and innovation.
In England and Wales today admiralty jurisdiction is practiced by the High Court of Justice in England (EWHC). Admiralty law applied in this court is grounded upon the civil law-based Law of the Sea, with statutory law and common law additions. The Admiralty Court is no longer in the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand, having moved to the Rolls Building.
What Is the Law of The Sea?
Law of the sea also known as the “constitution of the sea” is the ground of the international law which administers different states in the maritime jurisdiction. It handles matters such as navigational rights, sea mineral claims and coastal water jurisdiction. The United Nations Law of the Sea provides authority to coastal states over the seabed and subsoil of the continental shelf. A country have right over 200m EEZ and allows the state to explore and excavate any resource within the territorial limits.
Admiralty law in America
The courts and the government tend to create a uniform body of the admiralty law nationally and internationally. The courts handle the admiralty jurisdiction through the Judiciary Act 1789 and from the Article III and II of the U.S Constitution. They also regulate it partially through the “Commerce Claus”. American Admiralty Law previously applied only to the American tidal waters. It now extends to the water bodies present within the United States for internal and international commerce and trade. In such water’s admiralty jurisdiction includes maritime matters not involving interstate commerce, including recreational boating.Admiralty Law in the United States formed by the British Admiralty Courts is present in most of the American colonies now.
In the United States the federal district court have authority over all admiralty and maritime cases. The state court hearing an admiralty case is required to follow the Admiralty maritime law even if its against the law of the state. Under the doctrine known as the “reverse-Erie doctrine.” The Erie doctrine derived by“Erie Railroad Co. v. Tompkins” tells the courts hearing state cases to apply state law. However, if a state court is hearing Admiralty cases should apply Admiralty Law. Which in some cases turns really crucial.
Claims for the damage to cargo shipped by ocean carrier in international commerce and trade in and out of the United States are administered by the Carriage of Goods by Sea Act (COGSA), which is the U.S. enactment of the Hague Rules.
Admiralty Law in Asia
Most of the common law countries (including Pakistan, Singapore, India, and many other Commonwealth of Nations countries) follow English statute and case law. India still follows many Victorian-era British statutes such as the Admiralty Court Act 1861. Whilst Pakistan now has its own statute, the Admiralty Jurisdiction of High Courts Ordinance, 1980 (Ordinance XLII of 1980), it also follows English case law.
The Admiralty Law in Singapore exclusively covers the areas such as Carriage of goods by sea, Admiralty law and merchant shipping legislation. However, as far as Carriage of goods by sea is concerned the Admiralty law of Singapore is extremely similar to that of English Law. Common law principles and two decrees. Namely Carriage of goods by sea and the Bills of lading act. The primary Jurisdiction is handled by the High court (Admiralty Jurisdiction) Act of Singapore.
Maritime suits often involve matters of international law. In Malaysia the importance of having a separate and specialized Admiralty court was extremely important and vital. This all took rise by the setting up of the court in October 2010. This court in Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur practices the same jurisdiction in handling the matters of Admiralty, as that of the High Court of Justice in England under the UK Supreme Court Act 1981. However, the law was a little amended and some things were changed for ex the matters which are handled by the court was expanded form the 18 matters listed in the s.24 (b) of UK Supreme Court Act 1981.
Vessel Act as part of Admiralty/Maritime laws in Thailand is the frame of law that administers vessels in Thai waters. In terms of nationality, the vessels can be classified as either a Thai registered vessel or a foreign registered vessel. Thailand is not a signatory to any international conventions relating carriage of goods by sea i.e., Hague Rules, Hague Visby Rules or Hamburg Rules but some principles in those international Conventions were adopted in Thai COGSA particularly, it was mainly influenced by the provisions of Hamburg Rules.
The Indonesian Admiralty Law states a ship should arrested by its harbormaster at the certain port based on a written court order that is granted if the ship is involved in a criminal or civil case. The Shipping Law further states that a court judgement for a ship arrest in a civil case relating to maritime claims may be issued without initiating civil court proceedings.
The Pakistan Merchant Shipping Ordinance 2001 has replaced the Merchant Shipping Act 1923. This replacement was done in 2001 to handle the constantly upgrading modern shipping industry. The purpose of the Pakistan Merchant Shipping Ordinance 2001 is to provide a strategy and rules under which the Government, Authorities will function in dealing with stuff related to the shipping industry. This law also handles duties internationally required under the ILO (International Labour Organization) conventions as Pakistan being an active member of the ILO.
The current Maritime Law in India has been established from Colonel times such as the Territorial Waters Jurisdiction Act, 1878, the Admiralty Offences (Colonial) Act, 1849, the Coasting Vessels Act, 1838; the Inland Steam vessels Act, 1917, the Indian Registration of Ships Act (1841) Amendment Act etc. India has a very deep history in dealing with sea trading this is why there existed a variety of regulations, rules, and set of laws in this field from time old.
The Turkish commercial code includes the Maritime Jurisdiction which is very important for foreign investors who want to start business in Turkey concerning this fields. This law controls major issues, such as buying and selling of ships, the rights of an owner of a vessel, how to use the Turkish flag, the owner’s liabilities etc. The owner of a ship is permitted to sell shares of it only if the vessel is legally registered. The operator of a ship has some important liabilities and it is responsible in front of third parties. The carrier has certain tasks for loss or damage of the goods that he transports if he didn’t take the obligatory measures for the safety of his mission. The Code of Obligations states what happens in case of losses caused by delays or others that are not a direct responsibility of the carrier. The carrier’s liabilities related to losses and damages are also stated by the Hague Rules.
The Maritime Safety Administration of the People’s Republic of China is a government agency which looks after every matter relating to the maritime and shipping safety, including the management of maritime traffic safety and security, stoppage of pollution from ships, inspection of ships and offshore facilities, navigational safety measures (including Search and Rescue, Aids to Navigation and the GMDSS), administrative management of port processes, and law enforcement on matters of maritime safety law. It was also accountable for marine accident investigation. It is headquartered in Dongcheng District, Beijing.
Admiralty Law in Australia
The Admiralty Act of 1988 brought the Australian admiralty jurisdiction in the 20th century. It was updated from the 19th century. The law permits the states Supreme Court as well as the federal court to handle matters like ship arrest and other actions.
The Act gives right to arrest the “surrogate ship” which in some laws is known as the sister ship arrest. This only arises when the relevant person was when the cause of action arose. The proceeding is started the ship and the owner of the ship is to be arrested.
The Act does not create any new liens and do not change any common laws of the state
The Act also gives a constitutional right of damages where property has been arrested or excessive security has been demanded unreasonably and without good cause (section 34). Despite the passage of almost 20 years since the Act’s introduction, section 34 remains untested. There have, however, been a large number of cases testing the limits of the jurisdiction conferred by this legislation and Australia now has a considerable body of its own admiralty law. The Federal Circuit Court has jurisdiction under ss.9, 27 and 28 of the Admiralty Act 1988 (Cth) and any matters referred to it by the Federal Court. The jurisdiction allows the Court to hear proceedings commenced as actions in personam on:
Admiralty Law in Canada
Canadian maritime law is based on the “Navigation and Shipping” entrusted on the Parliament of Canada by the s. 91(10) of the Constitution Act, 1867.
Canada has adopted a modern version of its maritime law, which is the updated version of the “Admiralty Law”. The original english admiralty jurisdistion was called wet because it limited itself with things at sea such as collisions, salvage, the work of mariners, and contracts and torts performed at sea. The canadian Admiralty law was named as dry because it also concerned itself witth matters such as:
Personal Injuries to passengers
Shipowners have a really huge for the safety and care of passengers. Passengers which are injured at sea consequently file claims against the third party. However, it is their responsibility to file a claim against the ship owner. Personal injury cases usually pursued within three years. Admiralty suits are to be filed within the 1 years’ time due to the terms and conditions at the back of the passenger tickets. Some exceptional cases also only have a 6 months’ time. Many U.S cruise lines also have terms to only file suit in either Miami and Seattle.
Maritime Liens and Mortgages
Banks which loan money to purchase ships, vendors who supply ships with necessaries like fuel and stores, seamen who are due wages, and many others have a lien against the ship to guarantee payment. To enforce the lien, the ship must be arrested or seized. In the United States, an action to enforce a lien against a U.S. ship must be brought in federal court and cannot be done in state court, except for under the reverse-Erie doctrine whereby state courts can apply federal law.
One of its key features is that a shipowner is liable for cargo damaged from “hook to hook”, meaning from loading to discharge, unless it is exonerated under one of 17 exceptions to liability, such as an “act of God”, the inherent nature of the goods, errors in navigation, and management of the ship. The basis of liability for the shipowner is a bailment and if the carrier is to be liable as a common carrier, it must be established that the goods were placed in the carrier’s possession and control for immediate carriage.
Personal injuries to Seamen
In Admiralty Law there is a great emphasis on the rights of seamen. Seamen injured on ship can claim compensation through these following path’s: the Jones Act, the Principle of Maintenance and Cure, and the Doctrines of unseaworthiness. The “Jones Act” which is the section 27 of the Merchant Marine Act of 1920 states that sailor can file claims and obtain damages from there employers. On the other hand the Doctrines of unseaworthiness states that a ship owner should maintain its ship properly and make it seaworthy. A ship or vessel that is seaworthy is one that is fit for its intended purpose. If any part of the ship, or equipment on it, is not in fit shape, the vessel is unseaworthy.
Under Maritime Law responsibility for collision damage is based on the fault. However, a colliding vessel is not held responsible for the accident, Unless the accident is caused by the deficiency of the colliding vehicle or the negligence of its navigator.
The principle of “Contributory fault” is when both of the colliding vessels are blamed responsible the expenses are to be shared equally regardless of the respective degree of fault. However, in some countries this principle is not followed and each owner bears its own damages.
The International Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage, 1969, renewed in 1992 and often referred to as the CLC Convention, is an international maritime treaty administered by the International Maritime Organization that was adopted to ensure that adequate compensation would be available where oil pollution damage was caused by maritime casualties involving oil tankers (i.e., ships that carry oil as cargo).
The convention introduces strict liability for shipowners.
In cases when the shipowner is deemed guilty of fault for an instance of oil pollution, the convention does not cap liability.
When the shipowner is not at fault, the convention caps liability at between 3 million special drawing rights (SDR) for a ship of 5,000 GT to 59.7 million SDR for ships over 140,000.
The Admiralty Law dates back to the 1360s and at that time mainly practiced in England and few other Countries. As time passes, now in the modern era almost every country adopting trade and among each other and practicing all the ways of trade specially through ships / vessels. This arises different nature of problems which can only be handled by Admiralty law, so almost all countries practice this Law. Which lead us to different kinds of conventions, treaties etc. This all shows us the importance of Admiralty jurisdiction and how it is emerging in our world.