Maritime law covers a broad range of legal issues. Some attorneys consider maritime law to be a general category, while others consider it to encompass all of these areas. Below we’ve outlined some of the most important topics that relate to maritime law. In addition to the many types of maritime law, the following terms are also used. Let’s take a look at what they all mean. What do they mean by “maritime law”?
Maritime law governs a variety of types of disputes. It may be used to determine whether someone is responsible for an accident, or whether another party has stolen a ship. Some maritime actions, for example, seek to partition ownership of a vessel, limit a shipowner’s liability to the value of the ship, or even arrest the ship to enforce a maritime lien. In general, however, maritime actions are appropriate for state or federal courts.
The first documented code of maritime law was the Rolls of Oleron, named for an island in the Bay of Biscay. It is thought to date back to the 12th century, and may be of French or Anglo-Norman origin. It became the main body of maritime law in England, France, Scotland, and Flanders, and was later cited and used in Prussia. The Rolls of Oleron were closely followed by the Laws of Wisby, which were adopted by the Hanseatic League’s headquarters until 1361.
The Supreme Court also has decided the laws of the seas. The Supreme Court ruled in the case of Southern Pacific Co. v. Jensen, a case on the legality of armed attacks against American ships during wartime, that maritime law is governed by the Constitution. Its decisions are still used as touchstones of maritime law. The Supreme Court also considered cases such as Pope & Talbot v. Hawn, 346 U.S. 406 (1953) and Kermarec v. Compagnie Generale Transatlantique (a case from 1959).