According to Wikipedia, “maritime law” is a distinct body of law that governs maritime questions and offenses. It is a body of both domestic law governing maritime activities, and private international law governing the relationships between private entities that operate vessels on the oceans. It deals with matters including marine commerce, marine navigation, marine salvaging, shipping, sailors, and the transportation of passengers and goods by sea. Admiralty law also covers many commercial activities, although land based or occurring wholly on land, that are maritime in character.
Admiralty law is distinguished from the Law of the Sea, which is a body of public international law dealing with navigational rights, mineral rights, jurisdiction over coastal waters and international law governing relationships between nations.
Although each legal jurisdiction usually has its own enacted legislation governing maritime matters, admiralty law is characterized by a significant amount of international law developed in recent decades, including numerous multilateral treaties.”
Seaborne transport was one of the earliest channels of commerce, and rules for resolving disputes involving maritime trade were developed early in recorded history. Early historical records of these laws include the Rhodian law (Nomos Rhodion Nautikos), of which no primary written specimen has survived, but which is alluded to in other legal texts (Roman and Byzantine legal codes), and later the customs of the Hanseatic League. In southern Italy the Ordinamenta et consuetudo maris (1063) at Trani and the Amalfian Laws were in effect from an early date.
Bracton noted further that admiralty law was also used as an alternative to the common law in Norman England, which previously required voluntary submission to it by entering a plea seeking judgment from the court.
Islamic law also made major contributions to international admiralty law, departing from the previous Roman and Byzantine maritime laws in several ways. These included Muslim sailors being paid a fixed wage “in advance” with an understanding that they would owe money in the event of desertion or malfeasance, in keeping with Islamic conventions in which contracts should specify “a known fee for a known duration.” (In contrast, Roman and Byzantine sailors were “stakeholders in a maritime venture, inasmuch as captain and crew, with few exceptions, were paid proportional divisions of a sea venture’s profit, with shares allotted by rank, only after a voyage’s successful conclusion.”) Muslim jurists also distinguished between “coastal navigation, or cabotage“, and voyages on the “high seas”, and they made shippers “liable for freight in most cases except the seizure of both a ship and its cargo”. Islamic law “departed from Justinian’s Digest and the Nomos Rhodion Nautikos in condemning slave jettison”, and the Islamic Qirad was a precursor to the European commenda limited partnership.The “Islamic influence on the development of an international law of the sea” can thus be discerned alongside that of the Roman influence.
Maritime Law Enforcement Academy
The U.S. Coast Guard Maritime Law Enforcement Academy was established in November, 2004 at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Charleston, SC to prepare Coast Guard personnel to perform as Maritime Law Enforcement Officers. In addition, we enhance the Maritime Law Enforcement skills of students from our fellow federal, state and local agencies, as well as the international community. We accomplish this through the delivery of high quality training that provides the knowledge and skills necessary for graduates to perform in a Safe, Legal and Professional manner. We also develop, maintain and make readily available up-to-date training material that supports the standardization and professionalism of the Coast Guard’s entire Maritime Law Enforcement Training system.
United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea
The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), also called the Law of the Sea Convention or the Law of the Sea treaty, is the international agreement that resulted from the third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS III), which took place between 1973 and 1982. The Law of the Sea Convention defines the rights and responsibilities of nations with respect to their use of the world’s oceans, establishing guidelines for businesses, the environment, and the management of marine natural resources. The Convention, concluded in 1982, replaced four 1958 treaties. UNCLOS came into force in 1994, a year after Guyana became the 60th nation to sign the treaty. As of January 2015[update], 166 countries and the European Union have joined in the Convention. However, it is uncertain as to what extent the Convention codifies customary international law.
While the Secretary General of the United Nations receives instruments of ratification and accession and the UN provides support for meetings of states party to the Convention, the UN has no direct operational role in the implementation of the Convention. There is, however, a role played by organizations such as the International Maritime Organization, the International Whaling Commission, and the International Seabed Authority (ISA). (The ISA was established by the UN Convention.)