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Maritime law is a branch of law that governs the disputes and conflicts relating to an individual’s contract, registration, insurance of ship etc., to put in simple terms, disputes regarding working on the sea. The scope of maritime is much wider and broader in the sense. Through this blog, you will get to know what is maritime law, its history and evolution of maritime law and its importance.

KEYWORDS: private, contract, sea, ship.


Water has been one of the most essential elements during the ancient period which serves as the channel or medium of goods transportation such as goods and passengers. For these transportation ships were mainly used as a channel to exchange goods and passengers from one place to another place. The sea was used for commerce and trade by carrying bulk goods, used by many countries which led to war and disputes. To settle the disputes among many countries a solution was found which is the “maritime law” which contains rules and regulations. It is otherwise known as ‘admiralty law’.


Maritime laws are the physical make-up of laws, and conventions dealing with or regarding the interstate or international states. It upholds issues of private maritime, disagreement or contradiction and violation and other matters relating to sailors, navigation, or ships. Maritime laws govern with insurance of vessels, ships and cargo. It also deals with civil matters of ship-owners, passengers, and piracy, which usually take place such as breach of contract, chattered ships etc., it controls or directs registration, license, inspection procedures, insurance, shipping contracts and so on. These maritime laws are regulated by an organization called International Maritime Organization. Naturally speaking, maritime laws apply only to seawater. The activities which are carried out by ships are governed by others' laws and rules.


The history of maritime law will go back three thousand years when trade plays a prominent role in those times. Transportation of goods from one country to another i.e., export and import are made only throw the way of seas is an inseparable part of the trade sector. That is the only way to migrate from one place to another. these constitute a crucial part of ancient India.

The Rhodian Sea Laws

In the Mediterranean Sea, the Egyptians and Greeks were one of the most efficiently participated in trading activities, therefore most of the ancient customs of maritime laws were derived from their customs. The previous laws or rule or codes about the maritime was the ‘Rhodian Sea Laws’. It is considered the oldest in the maritime. These are propounded for the benefit of the sailor such as predicting to merchants and their vessels.

The rise of the Roman Empire altered the Rhodian Sea Law and a uniform code remained based on the Rhodian Sea Law. It was recognized as an essential and profitable trade. Therefore, Justinian Digest points out conflicts which are arising in the Mediterranean Sea; “This matter must be decided by the maritime law of the Rhodians. Provided that no law of occurs is opposed to it.” The oldest code of Regulation of Sea was prepared in Barcelona.

Current maritime law is a mixture of ancient doctrines and both national and international. In conventional principles of jurisdiction, some concepts are still in use such as insurance, general average and salvage. The concept of seaman welfare and the ancient thoughts are maintenance and cure are still existing today. The unchanging nature of the basic hazards of seafaring is an important reason for the continuation of ancient principles. The rules of maritime are common to everyone and apply to everyone globally or universally.


Maritime security is a subset of national security; as national security varies from nation to nation it has numerous and different definitions for the term ‘Maritime security’. Commonly, the term Maritime Security comprises issues arising over the seas and oceans surrounding the nation. History reflects that India was the most prosperous and secure when it is connected to the world and nations through sea routes. To put it simply, through seas India was well flourished only through the sea. Jawaharlal Nehru’s conclusion based on our history was “We cannot afford to be weak at sea. History has shown that whoever controls the Indian Ocean has, in the first instance, India’s sea-borne trade at her mercy and, in the second, India’s very independence itself.”


As the world changes drastically with the advancement of technology in various fields, now the marine industry has also gained some insights. By growing rapidly, it needs to be regulated by some authority or sovereign. The only way to regulate or to guide is by enacting laws and legislations for the same.


· Radio communication

· The compass

· Navigation charts

· The Radar

· Newer and safer methods

· Other equipment


It deals with the transportation of goods by sea. Rules covered in maritime laws are registration of ships, insurance, damages to ships, and marine insurance. One of the major disputes in India is between Bangladesh. There were a lot of issues which includes economic zones. In 2019, a bill was passed in India and it was called as Anti-Maritime Piracy Bill. Maritime Zones of India Act was enacted in 1981, which regulates and guidelines are to be followed by the vessels (fishing and activities regarding the same). This act protects and preserves the marine system and structures.


Though the laws are governed by various laws, the sea is also protected and preserved by law to maintain the economy in a stable condition so that all the living creatures on the earth can sustain in a fixed or some extent fixed ratio. The government has the responsibility towards their subjects i.e., people residing in the state. As we are in an advanced world and well worst in technology to regulate these advancements, laws are legislated by the legislation of the government. But maritime law has a contemporary issue even though there is an advancement in law as well as in technology. It has a harder part such as jurisdiction.


1. Maritime law enforcement (last accessed on 8th August 2023-10.14 pm)

AUTHOR – Janani Arunraj

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