Nature of Admiralty Law

Admiralty law, is the area of law that applies to employment, trade, commerce, transportation, and other activities that happen at sea.  This area of law is rather complex and contains regulations that date back centuries.  It contains multiple facets of governance including legislation specifically dealing with seafarers and their working conditions.  It is a complex set of regulations.  This area can be complicated since international jurisdiction and intricate trade and employment laws also fall under the realm of admiralty law.  The Jones Act, passed by Congress in 1970, is legislation that specifically covers the legal rights of workers at sea.  New rules and regulations are always being modified in admiralty law.

The historical development of admiralty jurisdiction and procedure is of practical as well as theoretical interest, since opinions in admiralty cases frequently refer to the historical background in reaching conclusions on the questions at issue.  The special jurisdiction of admiralty has a maritime purpose, different from the common law.  It is not exclusively rooted in the civil law system, although it includes substantial derivations from it.  It has a strong international aspect, but may undergo independent changes in the several countries.  Such international features are given serious consideration by admiralty courts.  The law of admiralty does not seek to achieve uniformity of process beyond the rudimentary elements of procedural fairness, since admiralty law is supposed to apply in all the courts of the world.  Maritime law draws on many sources, and when there are no clear precedents in the law of the sea, admiralty judges often look to the law prevailing on land.

In any case of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction relating to any matter of contract or tort arising upon or concerning any vessel of twenty tons or upward, enrolled and licensed for the coasting trade, and employed in the business of commerce and navigation between places in different states upon the lakes and navigable waters connecting said lakes, the trial of all issues of fact shall be by jury if either party demands it[i].  However, the allowance and taxation of costs in admiralty and maritime cases shall be prescribed by rules promulgated by the Supreme Court.

[i] 28 USCS § 1873


Inside Nature of Admiralty Law