Maritime law is a body of public international law that governs the rights and duties of nations when they interact with one another at sea. This includes the navigational rights of ships and other vessels and the laws that regulate crimes and maritime cargo.
Maritime law is also often used as a synonym for “admiralty law”. Admiralty law refers to the jurisdiction of courts that hear maritime cases. These courts are usually separate from civil courts.
Unlike other forms of litigation, a maritime case can be brought in federal or state court. Most maritime actions are heard in federal court. Some federal laws are available to help protect shipowners and their vessels.
The US has codified many of its statutory rules into the Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.). These are divided into 50 titles and are revised on an annual basis.
There are also numerous national courts that have authority over maritime matters. One of these is the French Admiralty Court, which was granted the power to hear maritime cases.
In order to enforce a convention, a member state must sign on to the agreement. If a ship or its crew commits an infringement of a convention, the member state will impose a penalty. Sometimes, it will arrest the ship and take it into custody to enforce a maritime lien.
A vessel may fly the flag of a foreign country. However, the laws of that country may be less strict than the U.S. or French laws.