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Admiralty Law: Meaning and Significance

Meta description: "Maritime law is another name for admiralty law." It consists of a complex of laws, treaties, and conventions crafted by international law and the US government to address any disagreements or disputes that may arise in navigable waterways; these disagreements may be of a contractual, tortuous, or damage character. This legislation used to be restricted to bodies of water in the oceans.


What is Admiralty Law?

The law of admiralty is frequently referred to as maritime law. It is a set of laws, treaties, and conventions drafted by international law and the US government to address any disagreements or disputes that may arise in navigable waterways. These disagreements may be of a contractual character, or they may involve harm or other torts.


What was the need of Admiralty Law?

Admiralty law is also known as maritime law. It comprises a set of rules, treaties, and conventions framed by international law in combination with the U.S. government in order to cover any sort of dispute or discrepancy arising in the navigable waters; such disputes can be contractual in nature or arise from an injury or tort. Previously, this law only applied to bodies of water in the ocean. But, eventually, it started covering other public water bodies as well, such as lakes, rivers, etc. This law is immensely important as it governs all the activities occurring in the water bodies, which ensures that the organizations and authorities working on the water bodies do not conduct any malpractices.


In earlier times, there used to be a difference between admiralty law and maritime law. The term "Admiralty" was used to refer to courts in American and English colonies; these courts dealt with matters of contractual disputes in the seas (including losses or damage during navigation), whereas maritime law expanded to address the hazardous conditions in offshore activities that were commercial in nature. In today’s world, these words are used interchangeably.


Features of Admiralty Law

Admiralty or maritime law is a domestic private law, which means that each country is distinct in terms of managing sea activities. However, some important aspects of Admiralty Law are as follows:

  • International Nature: As stated before, every nation has its own laws with regards to activities in the water bodies, but all such laws have an international influence. Because shipping is an international activity, the laws enacted by national legislatures are framed with reference to international treaties and conventions.

  • Comprehensiveness: One of the most important characteristics of admiralty law is its breadth. It has its own laws of contract, which can be seen in activities such as the hiring of seamen, the sale of ships, insurance policies, risk distribution, pledges, leases, maintenance, etc. It has its own national laws as well as international law. Further, it has its own courts and proceedings system.

  • Legal Jargon: Admiralty law involves the use of complex jargon and terms. It is important to understand those terms in order to understand the subject matter with reference to shipping. Some of those terms are charter party ( it is a contract of lease of ship;, it can be partly or wholly with reference to the time period of lease;,maritime lien ( it is a security claim against a ship or various other parts or bunkers in ship;)and salvage ( it involves providing assistance to ships during an unnatural or unexpected scenarios or distress).


The Origins of Admiralty Law


Admiralty Courts Act, 1840; Admiralty Courts Act, 1861; Colonial Court of Admiralty Act, 1890; Colonial Court of Admiralty (India) Act; and provisions of the Letters Patent, 1865, pertaining to the admiralty jurisdiction of the Bombay, Calcutta, and Madras High Courts are all repealed by the Admiralty Act.


The Admiralty Act now grants the High Courts of all coastal states in India, including Karnataka, Telangana, and Odisha, jurisdiction over vessels found inside the state seas of India, in addition to the jurisdiction previously held by the High Courts of Bombay, Madras, and Calcutta concurrently over vessels wherever they may be in India's territorial waters, and by the High Courts of Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, and Kerala over vessels in those states' waters. As a result, the concurrent jurisdiction that was being used is no longer in effect, and the High Court of the state where the vessel should be when the suit is filed will have jurisdiction, regardless of the owner's residence or domicile. As a result, an Indian vessel may now also be detained in India in order to execute or reclaim a maritime claim.

The Admiralty Act harmonizes Indian law with the 1952 and 1999 International Conventions for the Arrest of Ships and the 1993 International Convention on Maritime Liens. It also outlines procedures for adjudicating identified maritime claims, providing security for those claims, arresting vessels, and other related activities.


Significance of Admiralty Laws

These days, maritime laws are of utmost importance. It was determined in the case of "M. V. Elisabeth v. Harwan Investment and Trading Pvt. Ltd." that the High Courts of India had the most authority to handle maritime matters involving India. Numerous purposes are served by maritime laws. The process of shipping commodities, regulations governing the upkeep and protection of ships at sea, registration of ships, ship damage, marine insurance, and other topics are the principal topics covered by maritime law. Maritime cases involve injuries and working conditions at sea, cargo, shipping, and trade, as well as any criminal conduct that takes place at sea.

In contrast to onshore law, maritime law places these disputes under the jurisdiction of the respective countries based on the flags that the ships are flying. Indian maritime rules also outline how the personnel must be treated.

The conflict between India and Bangladesh was one of the most significant maritime issues involving India. The "exclusive economic zones" and "delimitation of the territorial sea" were just two of the many difficulties. A 19,467-square-kilometer portion of the Bay of Bengal that extends from the contentious maritime border with India was given to Bangladesh.

A bill was approved by the name of "Anti-Maritime Piracy Bill" in India in 2019. The "Anti-Maritime Piracy Bill" was its official name. It was turned into a report on February 11, 2021. This paper claims that the Indian legal and judicial systems are capable of acting against acts of piracy that occur on the high seas. The UN convention on "the law of the sea" has had a significant impact on the rules and regulations discussed in this study. The research states that 200 nautical miles out from the Indian shoreline is where the Indian government's jurisdiction begins. The penalties have also been laid out. As a result, such violent crimes and piracy are frequently protected by marine rules. This demonstrates how crucial these rules are, particularly for a nation like India that is bordered by water on three sides.

The "Maritime Zones of India Act" of 1981 deals with the rules that vessels must abide by when engaging in maritime activities like fishing and other related ones. Consequently, this law safeguards the aquatic environment.


Admiralty Law: India

The Admiralty (Jurisdiction and Settlement of Maritime Claims) Act, 2017, is the enactment that deals with maritime claims and admiralty laws in India. It went into effect on April 1, 2018.Earlier maritime disputes were dealt with according to British law, which was then repealed.

Section 4 of the aforesaid act talks about the several types of disputes against which maritime claims can be made, some of them being disputes on possession or ownership of a vessel, mortgage of vessel, loss of damage to vessel, dispute over mortgage of vessel, pilotage, towage, dues with respect to ports, harbours, docks, loss of life or personal injury, etc.

Section 3 of the aforesaid act deals with the jurisdiction of such disputes; it states that "Subject to the provisions of sections 4 and 5, the jurisdiction in respect of all maritime claims under this Act shall vest in the respective High Courts and be exercisable over the waters up to and including the territorial waters of their respective jurisdictions in accordance with the provisions contained in this Act: Provided that the Central Government may, by notification, extend the jurisdiction of the High Court up to the limit as defined in section 2 of the Territorial Waters, Continental Shelf, Exclusive Economic Zone, and Other Maritime Zones Act, 1976

As per Section 15 of the Act, the Supreme Court has the power to transfer the cases from one High Court to another and the latter shall continue the trial.

As per section 16(1) of the Act, "The Central Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, make rules for carrying out the purposes of this Act." Such rules can be made in matters such as experience, qualification, nature of duties, practise of admiralty jurisdiction, practise and procedures of the act, and matters regarding fees and other expenses.


Admiralty Laws in Foreign Countries

In the United States, the federal district courts have been granted the authority to deal with cases regarding admiralty and maritime actions. The courts shall use admiralty and maritime law even if it contradicts the law of the state in such disputes as per the "reverse-Erie doctrine."

In Pakistan, admiralty law is also classified as shipping law. The Merchant Shipping Ordinance of 2001 was passed, which replaced the prior statute, i.e., the Merchant Shipping Act of 1923. It was replaced to better handle the modern shipping industry. It provides several rules and strategies that are implied in shipping activities.

In Canada, the jurisdiction regarding shipping and related matters is vested in the Parliament of Canada. It now not only deals with disputes over the "wet," which includes subject matters occurring in the sea such as salvage, collision, and marine worker disputes, but also deals with "dry" jurisdiction, which includes subject matters such as marine insurance, warehousing, carriage contracts, etc.


Conclusion

To summarize, admiralty law is the law governing the various activities and disputes occurring in water bodies. It ensures that there is no misbehavior in navigable water bodies. The terms admiralty and maritime are used interchangeably. This law is international in nature as it involves travel and trade through ships in water bodies from one country to another and is comprehensive because of the several contracts and compilation of commercial undertakings. Further, it involves the usage of several legal terminologies, which are important to understand admiralty law. Indian law over admiralty is Admiralty (Jurisdiction and Settlement of Maritime Claims), 2017. This act specifies the various types of maritime claims that can be made for compensation. Under this act, such maritime disputes are dealt with in the High Court, and the Supreme Court has the authority to transfer such cases from one high court to another. Similarly, different countries have different jurisdictions to deal with maritime disputes, as stated above.


FAQs


1. When was The Admiralty (Jurisdiction and Settlement of Maritime Claims), 2017 enacted?

Ans: The Admiralty (Jurisdiction and Settlement of Maritime Claims) came into force on April 1, 2018.


2. What does the Admiralty (Jurisdiction and Settlement of Maritime Claims) deal with?

Ans: The Admiralty (Jurisdiction and Settlement of Maritime Claims) deals with maritime claims and admiralty laws in India. Earlier maritime disputes were dealt with according to British law, which was then repealed.


3. What water bodies are covered under the Admiralty's jurisdiction and settlement of maritime claims?

Ans: The Admiralty (Jurisdiction and Settlement of Maritime Claims) was only concerned with oceanic water bodies. But, eventually, it started covering other public water bodies as well, such as lakes, rivers, etc.


4. In which case was it determined that the High Courts of India had the most authority to handle maritime matters involving India?

Ans: It was determined in the case of "M. V. Elisabeth v. Harwan Investment and Trading Pvt. Ltd." that the High Courts of India had the most authority to handle maritime matters involving India.


5. What other statutes are covered by the Admiralty Act?

Ans: The Admiralty Act harmonises Indian law with the 1952 and 1999 International Conventions for the Arrest of Ships and the 1993 International Convention on Maritime Liens.



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