Maritime Law is a branch of the law that governs the transport and shipping of goods across the oceans. The rules and regulations are set forth in treaties that are enforced by navies and coast guards of countries that have ratified them.
Among other things, maritime law is responsible for protecting the environment on the ocean and the shoreline by curbing pollution, controlling smuggling and regulating fishing rights. Moreover, it deals with issues like the enforcement of maritime contracts and the compensation of injured seamen.
Generally speaking, admiralty jurisdiction extends to all navigable waters in the United States. This jurisdiction is granted by the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution and by the Judiciary Act of 1789.
There are many types of claims that may fall under admiralty law. These include actions for cargo damage, seaman injuries, vessel collisions, wake damage and maritime pollution.
In general, parties bring these actions in both federal and state courts. However, some maritime actions are required by law to be brought in federal courts. For example, actions seeking to partition the ownership of a ship or to limit a shipowner’s liability to the value of the ship after a large accident are typically filed in federal courts.
Maritime law also covers the rights of passengers to recover damages for personal injury and wrongful death while aboard vessels. Different laws apply if the passengers’ injuries are a result of negligence on the part of a shipowner, the company operating the vessel, or a third party.