Maritime law is a body of legal practice that addresses the unique problems and challenges involved in sea navigation and water commerce. It considers the dangerous conditions, conflicts, and difficulties that sailors face, as well as the need for special protection.
Among the many aspects of maritime law are the duty of care, maintenance and cure, seaman’s rights to compensation and attorneys fees, and ship owners’ liability for accidents involving their ships and crew members. In addition, a variety of international conventions regulate the safety of seagoing vessels.
UNCLOS is the basic framework for international law of the sea, but it does not address all maritime issues. This is where the various international agreements and customs of states come into play, providing a more detailed set of rules that are applicable in particular cases.
The International Maritime Organization, or ILO, has prepared many international conventions on international maritime safety and environmental issues. These are signed and enforced by individual nations.
Some of the most important international maritime conventions include the United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Carriage of Goods by Sea (UNCLOS), which sets standards for the international transport of goods. It is enforced by the Port State Controls of individual signatory nations, and by their national courts when disputes arise.
Maritime law also governs contracts between charter parties and owners of ships and their sub-charter parties. When a dispute arises between these parties, it is common for the parties to settle their differences in arbitration. This often resolves the issue without litigation and saves both sides time and money.