Maritime Law: Meaning and Application

Maritime Law covers a wide range of topics, including the development of laws on national and international level, customs and excise laws, the fishing industry, human rights, often involving the crew, and employment issues. It also addresses insurance claims, property damage, the effects of stowaways on ships, pollution, personal injuries, wreck and salvage, piracy, container and passenger liner issues, and other issues.

Ancient trade between nations aboard ships and maritime law both had their roots in that era. As a result, it became more and more important to broaden the reach of the law because no nation has the right to assert arbitrary control over international waters. In the midst of conflicts, international consensus also became crucial.

What is Maritime Law?

In the majority of developed countries, marine law has its own set of rules and operates separately from national legislation. The navies and coast guards of nations that have ratified the treaty detailing these regulations may implement a number of agreements that the United Nations (UN) has issued through the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

Furthermore, maritime law controls the licensing, inspection, and registration processes for ships and shipping agreements, as well as maritime insurance and the transportation of both goods and people.

The Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultative Organization, which became the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in 1948 and entered into force in 1958, is in charge of making sure that current international maritime conventions are kept up to date and creating new agreements as and when necessary.

Components of Maritime Law

Following two are the important components of maritime law −

Maritime Liens

The most distinguishing aspect of admiralty practice is the proceeding in rem against maritime property, such as a vessel or cargo, or "freight," which in shipping refers to the compensation to which a carrier is entitled for the carriage of cargo. This is true even though admiralty actions are frequently brought in personam, against only individual or corporate defendants.

Under American maritime law, the ship is personified to such an extent that it may occasionally be held accountable in situations when the ship owner himself is not liable. The "Compulsory Pilotage" situation is a prime illustration of personification.

Maritime liens may develop for a variety of reasons, including salvage work, general average contributions, and breaches of specific maritime contracts, in addition to when the personified ship is accused of a maritime tort like a careless collision or personal injury.

Shipping Charters

Ships, excluding military, pleasure, and service vessels of various types, are designed to transport people and cargo. The shipping industry's passenger-carrying sector has lost much of its previous significance in the "jet era," but the amount of products transported by water continues to grow as the global economy develops.

History of Maritime Law

The Widespread use of shipping by the ancient Egyptians suggests that they had some kind of basic legal framework governing it, albeit no evidence of this has been discovered so far. The Phoenicians, who followed the Egyptians as the region's trade masters, are also unknown for any marine legislation. However, two sentences from the Digest of the Roman emperor Justinian (AD 533) make it quite evident that Rhodes was a significant source of marine law.

  • In the first, the emperor Antoninus (who ruled from AD 138 to 161) is quoted as saying, "I am truly lord of the globe, but the Law is the lord of the sea.

  • The Digest assigns the basic law of "generic average," which is stated in the second, to the Rhodians.

Any loss a ship or its cargo suffers is referred to as "average" in this context. The average is referred to as general when one component of a maritime venture is sacrificed to save the others, and the owners of the property spared must contribute to making up the loss. The owners of the vessel and the cargo saved are therefore required to pay proportionate shares of the damage suffered by the owner of the cargo designated for sacrifice if cargo is successfully ejected in an effort to refloat a stranded vessel.

Functions of Maritime Law

According to projections, the Indian Ocean will dominate world geopolitics and the economy in the twenty-first century. Two pillars support the draft National Maritime Policy (NMP), which has not yet been made official:

  • The first is moving India from a brown economy to a blue economy (see here);

  • The second is establishing comprehensive maritime security.

The Blue Economy has been identified by Prime Minister Narendra Modi as a vehicle for India's growth, with a focus on the preservation of shared marine areas and the pursuit of "Security and Growth for All in the Region" (SAGAR).

A comprehensive paper entitled Blue Economy Vision 2025: Harnessing Business Potential for India Inc. and International Partners was created by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI).

In a thorough paper titled Blue Economy Vision 2025: Harnessing Business Potential for India Inc. and International Partners, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) provided information on the topic. The report also captures PM Modi's vision using the SAGAR technique.

The Indian government's efforts to eradicate hunger and poverty and ensure the sustainable use of marine resources by 2030 would be strengthened and supported by the blue economy.

By 2022, India's GDP might reach $10 trillion in size thanks to the marine services sector, which could also act as the foundation of its blue economy.


As one of the major sources of income for our nation's economic development, maritime laws and the laws governing trade and commerce through the water play an essential role in the development sector. This portion of the ship and its relevant commercial activities are governed by various different statutes. However, it is a reality that there are no strong laws governing vessel upkeep, particularly for those used for trade and the shipment of certain products from India to other countries.

Frequently Asked Question

Q1. Who Controls Maritime Law?

Ans: The International Maritime Organization (IMO) is in charge of overseeing international maritime law. The IMO, a specialized organization of the UN, is tasked with creating the rules and guidelines for shipping's environmental performance, safety, and security on a global scale.

Q2. What is the purpose of maritime law?

Ans: The body of rules that regulates shipping and navigation is referred to as maritime law, often known as admiralty law. The purpose of maritime laws is to ensure people's safety on the water.

Q3. Is maritime law complex?

Ans: It takes specialized knowledge and experience handling cases involving the rules and statutes in maritime law to effectively represent injured seamen.

Q4. Do maritime lawyers go to court?

Ans: Once your maritime attorney accepts your case, negotiations with the insurance provider or your employer start. If there are problems with either of these parties, your attorneys may then proceed directly to the court filing process.

Q5. Is maritime law a good career?

Ans: A marine attorney who is successful will be able to earn a high wage, while working long hours. Many laws from other departments, including civil, administrative, criminal, etc., as well as standards of international public and private law are referred to as maritime law.