Admiralty / Maritime Law

A whole lot of commercial activities take place on water - the seas and oceans. The law that applies to transactions on land cannot be applied directly to transactions and activities that take place on water. In the U.S., there is a separate body of law which governs all maritime activities- admiralty / maritime law.

It governs the following:

  • Marine commerce
  • Shipping
  • Sailors
  • Marine navigation
  • Transportation by sea of passengers, goods
  • Land transactions that are maritime in nature

Admiralty / Maritime law – Features

Maintenance and cure

According to this principle, the ship owner has the obligation to provide free medical care to the maximum, to an employee on the ship, who is injured in the course of work. This includes providing both medicines and medical devices like wheelchairs. Also, according to this doctrine, the owner of the ship is obligated to pay for the maintenance of the employee, that is, his basic living expenses, until he recovers.

Personal injuries to passengers

According to admiralty / maritime law, ship owners are required to exercise reasonable care in ensuring the safety of passengers. If a passenger on board a ship gets injured, he can file a suit against the owner of the ship just as he would have if he had suffered an injury on land due to the negligence of a third party. A case against a cruise company should be filed within a year, as generally, this is the period mentioned in the ‘terms and conditions’ on the passenger ticket. In the U.S., cruise companies mostly require injured passengers to file a suit in Miami or Seattle.

Liens and mortgages

According to the admiralty / maritime law, the following parties can exercise a lien on the ship:

  • The bank which has granted a loan for the purchase of the ship and which has not been repaid the amount.
  • Suppliers of fuel and other items, who have not received payment
  • Employees working on the ship who have not received their wages
  • A lien can be exercised only by an action brought in the federal court.


According to the salvage clause under the Admiralty / maritime law, when a property owned by a person is lost at sea, and is saved by another, the latter is entitled to a reward on the salvaged property. However, this rule does not apply to saving human lives and all seamen are expected to save the lives of the people who are in danger.

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