Maritime law, also known as admiralty law in English speaking countries, embodies the case law and statutes that govern disputes that arise on navigable waters. It is a unique and specialized area of law that encompasses everything from shipping issues, navigation matters and cargo transport to human rights and employment matters often involving crew members; personal injury; environmental concerns and even private recreational boating.
Among the unique aspects of maritime law is the concept of exclusive economic zone, which gives a country limited territorial waters over which it has sole control of natural resources such as fishing and oil drilling. Maritime law can also be concerned with the duty to rescue people from distress at sea, which is mandated by international treaties and is in fact the primary responsibility of ship masters, regardless of flags or ownership. The doctrine of salvage, which involves bringing a vessel to shore for reward in cases of stranding, may also be considered maritime law.
It can be very difficult to understand the complex facets of maritime law and it is important that anyone with any legal concern in this arena seeks qualified counsel immediately. Injured workers on ships, offshore platforms or jackup rigs have very specific compensation options under maritime law. Passengers can also have maritime claims in cases of injuries sustained during boarding, disembarking, excursions onshore or while at sea. Injuries that occur to sailors, fishermen or other types of commercial maritime workers are generally covered under maintenance and cure provisions, which require employers to pay injured workers’ medical expenses until they reach their full recovery, plus a certain amount for living expenses.