Maritime Law

maritime law

Maritime law is the branch of the law that governs the maritime industry. It originated from the courts of admiralty in most of the American colonies, which functioned separately from courts of law and equity. In the United States, the Judiciary Act has placed admiralty under the jurisdiction of federal district courts. While admiralty shares many similarities with civil law, it differs in that common law does not serve as a binding precedent in admiralty cases. Instead, other laws are used in situations where there is no common law.

Because the open seas cover almost 70 percent of the Earth’s surface, it is a valuable resource that must be protected. Without maritime law, the open seas would deteriorate into chaos and the world economy would likely collapse. It is important to know the rules of maritime law so that you can avoid causing a conflict.

Maritime law cases are usually tried in federal court, although there are some instances when you may be able to bring a case in state court as well. For example, if you are suing a ship owner for negligence, you will need a maritime law attorney that understands the differences between state and federal jurisdictions.

Most maritime contracts are evidenced by bills of lading or charter parties. Charter parties, which are corruptions of the Latin carta partita, are documents used to represent contracts between shipowners and charterers. Bareboat charters, “demise” charters, and “general average” charters are examples of contracts in which the shipowner delivers possession of his vessel to a charterer and engages a master and crew. The charterer then functions much like the owner of the vessel during the period of the charter.

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