The Law of the Sea and Maritime Law

maritime law

The law of the sea is the law that governs navigation, shipping, commerce, towage and recreational boating on both domestic and international waters. It covers all vessels regardless of their nationality, flag, residence or domicile and their owners. It is the duty of all maritime nations to render assistance to persons in distress. This duty is especially important in light of the ongoing human tragedy of people dying or missing while trying to reach European countries by way of the Mediterranean Sea route (more than 24000 have died in this manner so far in 2021).

Maritime law, also known as admiralty law, covers shipping accidents that occur on commercial cargo ships and passenger cruise boats. It includes ship owner negligence, piracy, maritime pollution and seaman injuries and wrongful death. Generally, maritime and admiralty cases are handled by federal courts.

The International Maritime Organization was created in 1974 to regulate shipping and trade. Its responsibilities include conventions, rules, laws, insurance, contracts and inspections.

Maritime law has its roots in common law and the law of the sea and is meant to be expanded and elaborated by additional international agreements and the evolving customs of States. It is based on the principle that the Law of the Sea is a framework that allows for judicially originated rules to be treated as if they were enacted by Congress. However, these rules must not be inconsistent with the Constitution or laws of the United States and they must have the effect of bringing admiralty law into line with the other branches of government.

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