Maritime contracts and maritime torts are the principal subjects of admiralty jurisdiction. Admiralty courts have jurisdiction over causes of action arising out of maritime contracts, either for direct enforcement or involving matters arising as the result of such contracts. The maritime nature of the subject of controversy is the essential test to determine jurisdiction. However, in tort matters admiralty jurisdiction depends upon locality. Jurisdiction depends on the occurrence of an event on navigable waters.
A court of admiralty will not entertain a suit for an accounting between co-owners of a vessel, or between maritime adventurers, or between a principal and an agent.[i] However, when an accounting is necessary to the complete adjustment of rights over which admiralty has independent jurisdiction, the court will not suspend its remedies midway and require the parties to resort to another court.[ii] Admiralty jurisdiction generally extends to litigation relating to maritime services. Maritime services are services of seamen, including masters, pilots, cooks, carpenters, stewards, and surgeons; fishermen on board a vessel; and watchmen on vessels.
[i] Vera, Inc. v. Tug “Dakota“, 769 F. Supp. 451 (E.D.N.Y. 1991)
[ii] Swift & Co. Packers v. Compania Colombiana Del Caribe, S. A., 339 U.S. 684 (U.S. 1950)