5 Tips on Navigating Maritime Law

The practice of maritime or admiralty law in the United Kingdom dates back to the days of King Richard I the Lionheart. The King’s mother, Queen consort Eleanor of Aquitaine is credited with formally bringing maritime conventions to England which she learned during the Second Crusade. Instead of following the path of common law, admiralty courts were based on the international and civil law systems, and these days they are under the jurisdiction of the High Court.

The governance of vessels operating in the high seas has always been an intricate affair. Numerous issues that can arise at sea transcend the laws of the land, and for this reason it is of the utmost importance that a maritime solicitor is retained in any of the five following cases:

Limits of the Territorial Sea

All vessels navigating in the world’s oceans and major bodies of water are governed by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The maritime laws of the United Kingdom, however, establish that vessels shall be subject to the admiralty laws promulgated by the vessel’s flag. Jurisdictional issues at sea can be fairly complex, and if an offence is committed while a vessel is underway, a maritime solicitor can intervene to make sure that the matter is investigated and tried in the right court of law.

Trade and Commerce Matters

The world of international shipping trade and commerce is fraught with litigation. Claims against ships and their cargo are a matter of daily life for crews and captains. A claim filed in admiralty law against a certain vessel or the cargo she carries can lead to costly shipping delays. Maritime solicitors can help defend against claims that can interrupt the flow of shipping commerce.


Vessels and cargo can be lost at sea and salvaged by just about anyone who can then turn around and demand a reward from the ship or cargo owners. This is known as merit salvage, and in some cases it could turn into an unreasonable reward claim. When faced with irrational salvagers, maritime solicitors can sue to recover the property so that it can be returned once a fair reward is paid.

Ship Arrest

A lot of trade and commerce at sea is financed by credit operations. When dealing with issues of payment delinquency, moroseness or default, a ship arrest order can be issued by admiralty court to ensure that collateral can be repossessed by the creditor. There are several reasons that could warrant a ship arrest, such as a default on a vessel’s mortgage or if the vessel was involved in a collision that caused significant economic damage.

Water Pollution

Vessels routinely carry dangerous pollutants that can accidentally spill out at sea, potentially triggering ecological disasters. This often translates into significant liability for vessel owners, and in some cases could result in incarceration for ship captains. Admiralty solicitors can ensure that due process takes place in all matters surrounding spilled pollutants, particularly when vessel owners or captains are held liable for ecological damage.

British admiralty law has always been a highly specialized field of practice. In the days of the British Empire, maritime enterprise was perhaps the strongest engine of the imperial economy, and thus maritime law became a dedicated field of study. Modern professional associations such as the British Maritime Law Association and the Admiralty Solicitors Group in the City of London serve to advance the interests of the maritime law tradition.

Eldon Shaw’s father was a seaman for over forty years and he recommends Doyle Raizner LLP if you are searching for a Maritime Lawyer.


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