• Admiralty Law Basics

    Admiralty LawAdmiralty law is a body of substantive and procedural law that deals with matters of both domestic law and private international law. This means that United States admiralty governs both domestic maritime activities and also private entities that operate vessels across the oceans. In this sense admiralty courts are ones of limited jurisdiction. They cannot judge on any matter that is of non-maritime nature. United States admiralty law used to only apply to American tidal waters. Now it has been extended to all water navigable within the United States for interstate or international commerce. Therefore, rivers, oceans, lakes, and canals are all subject to admiralty law since they are used for commerce purposes. All wharves, piers and docks are under admiralty jurisdiction.

    In these waters admiralty jurisdiction includes maritime matters such as marine commerce, marine insurance, maritime liens, navigation, shipping, sailors, and ship transport. Admiralty law is also responsible for the mariners’ duty to save one whom is in peril on the high seas. Lawyers in this specialty are also the experts in matters of marine salvage, determining when discovered wreckage belongs to someone and whom it actually belongs to.

    Cases of piracy, still a problem in today’s waters, although perhaps an unexpected threat, are handled under admiralty law. Piracy is when non-authorized entities commit war-like acts against ships. If one ship attacked another or stole goods from another, these would both be acts of piracy. Both American admiralty law and international law prohibit acts of piracy.

    Admiralty law regulates the carriage of passengers and goods. Any ship that is transporting products or people is subject to the rules laid down by admiralty law. If there is an accident on the high seas then all matters of the accident are covered by admiralty law. Who is at fault for collisions as well as matters of liability limitation and marine insurance will be determined in the admiralty courts. Lawyers in this specialty handle any cases of personal injury on the water whether due to a collision or negligence on a transport vessel. They also take charge of boating regulations and international fisheries regulation.

    Despite being a common environmental law issue, pollution can also be a matter for admiralty law if a ship has not been repaired or built properly according to regulation. The usage of boats on the canals falls under admiralty law as well as the increasing entertainment of recreational boating. Most matters regarding yachts, speedboats, fishing boats, and jet-skis are within the reach of admiralty lawyers.

    Under admiralty law, the ship’s flag determines the source of the law. No matter where the ship is located, it is under the admiralty law of the country whose flag is being flown. American admiralty courts can reject cases that involve applying another country’s law but in general, admiralty law is relatively uniform across countries.
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