Shipping Law


The shipping law is also called the maritime law. Its main mandate is to govern the activities that take place in the water transport sector. It contains a body of laws that have been set and also various treaties and conventions that have been signed by various countries that are involved in the maritime industry. The laws that are set govern the domestic and the international activities and are used to provide solutions in case of any misconduct done by a party1. The law provides guidelines that should be followed when compensation must be given to a party. Since the law contains a number of laws in it, it adequately covers for the persons travelling by water and commodities from the moment that they board the vessel until the moment when they alight from it and the claims and contracts entered into that deal with the marine industry. When put in a simple language, it governs the movement of people and commodities in the international waters.

History of the Law

The law has its major contributions from Islam law. This also had the Muslim sailors being paid a fixed amount and the rest through commissions. This became one of the basis on which the law was set and helped to set the guidelines for the operation.  The law was introduced in England by Queen Eleanor when she was acting as an agent for her son. She had learned about the law while on a trip in the Mediterranean. In England the common law is not used when dealing with these cases but they use the civil law2. In the United States it was introduced in the constitution from 1789 the admiralty courts had become a very common thing during the American Revolution and later became incorporated in the constitution becoming a major amendment in the United States. However the law is claimed to originate from the federal courts of England’s navy and they exists courts to deal specifically with the marine as the trade had become too much developed in the English country.

The maritime law is developed and has some main features that distinguish it from other laws and also enables it to adequately cover for the marine industry. These features mainly include:-

Personal Injury

This law deals with any injuries that may happen to the passengers and sea men. This deals with injury that occurs to their bodies while in their line of duty. It states that ship owners are supposed to take good care of passengers aboard their ships and also the steps that must be followed when it comes to the sea men and the whole crew getting injured. This is so as to prevent court cases that may be brought against them by the passengers as they may claim that negligence on their part was the reason why they suffered the injury which is the reason behind the suit and may cost the ship owner a lot of money in terms of legal fees and damages they have to pay in case the courts demands that they have to compensate the aggrieved party3. The passengers, however, they have to prove that they suffered the injury while in the ship and it could be prevented if the ship owners and crew had better precautionary measures in the ship. These suits however must be brought forth within a year. Personal injury to the sea crew may ask for compensation through maintenance and cure, Jones act or the principle of sea unworthiness.

The Jones Act states that the employer is liable for the injuries that happen to the ship crew while under the line of duty. An example of the Jones Act is Weaver vs. Hollywood casino whereby the person seeking to have admiralty due to personal injury has to satisfy some conditions dealing with location as it indicated part of the river where the casino boat was located could not be navigated. In the case of wozniak vs. Alexander in 2008 the plaintiff was injured while tubing by the propeller of a boat. The operator of the ship accepted the liability but claimed that the liabilities should be shared with the company where the boat had been rented4. The court held that the duty of care was owed to Rental Company. The company also stated that the hire company had breached its as it did not try to gather information whether the people renting had the required experience and they were not provided with the guide on how it was to be done. The court decided that the liability was to be shared equally between the company operating and the renting company5.

Salvage and treasure salvage

It deals with how the ship is able to recover its cargo after a ship wreck. This feature deals with the remunerations that must or may be given to another person called a salvor for coming to rescue another ship while it was in danger. The feature states that no compensation should be given in cases whereby a ship comes and saves the life of people who were aboard the endangered ship as it is a duty placed on them. However it also argues that in cases whereby a ship saves the goods or commodities they must be rewarded for that act6. It is divided into four; we have the pure salvage, contract salvage, naval salvage and plunder. In Pure salvage no contract exists between the person who saves the goods and the goods’ owner and the relationship between by them is set by the law. The salvor must bring his claims before the courts who determine the reward of the service considering the value of the goods that he has saved. On the other hand the pure salvage is also divided in two. We have the high order pure salvage whereby the salvor risks himself and the whole crew to danger and the risk of getting injured in the process of trying to save a ship that has been damaged example, when he tries to raise a ship that has already on fire. Low order pure salvage on the other hand occurs when the salvor, his crew and the ship are faced by minimal risks.

An example may be when pulling another vessel out of a sand bar. The reward for a pure salvage is mostly less than 50 % of the commodities that have been salvaged from damage. In plunder it happens when a vessel that is salvaged belongs to the navy of another country. In the international laws it is a crime to salvage a vessel of foreign origin. Naval salvage is usually a unit that is set to support vessels when they are in trouble. It has technical tools and operates in deep areas where citizens who are divers cannot manage to dive7. They also have the required technical knowhow for that kind of operation.  .When dealing with treasures the salvo has the right to get the biggest share of the salvaged treasure. This case applies even if the treasure has been lost for a long period of time and the original owner still has some interest in the lost treasure.

Maritime Liens and Mortgages

This is used to protect the financial institutions and other creditors that loan funds to the people that are in the marine industry. The law includes the dues that are owed to employees in the vessel and they should always be the first to be paid in case of anything. A right of lien is usually given to the aggrieved parties8. Lien gives the creditor the right to keep the goods until all the debt owed to him is paid up. The money may be used to purchase ship itself or it can be used by the shipping company to provide finances that are used to cater for other costs especially the operational costs that may be incurred in the operations of the ship and are required for the daily running of the vessel. The law says that whereby the financial institutions have not been paid back their funds they have lien against the ship. This means that they can seize the ship and hold on to it so as to have their dues paid up. The people who are owed however have to present their case before a court that enforces the law through seizing the ship so as to ensure that payment is done9.  The mortgagor as owner in possession is free to employ his vessel in any way in which he wishes provided that his acts do not impair the mortgagee’s security. Its main characteristics are the wages of the crew, general operations, damage claims and pollution claims.

Maintenance and Cure

This is a doctrine that states that it is the duty of the ship owner to provide medical attention to any sea person or worker who gets injured in the course of duty. This medical care should be given at no cost. The ship owner is also supposed to provide for his basic needs while he is still not feeling well. The sick employee should also be provided with the medical devices that he requires to enhance his medical condition both in the long and short term .these devices may include a special bed or even a wheel chair that they may need so as to enable them perform basic operations and on the other hand enable them to recover from their injuries although they may not recover fully10. The sea man can sue the ship owner for breach of contract if he does not honor his part of the contract and pay for the medical costs that have been incurred. In the case Vaughan vs. Atkinson in 1962 the sea man fell ill and was admitted in the hospital for some weeks then became an outpatient. He sent the cost of medication cost to the employer and requested him to pay. The employer however failed to pay for the cost because he had started to work as a taxi driver to maintain himself. The court awarded him with maintenance rewards but failed to give him damages payment.  


The law covers in depth about piracy. piracy is one of the negative vices that are inhibiting the marine industry as it poses a lot of threat not only to the vessel and its crew but also may cause some economies not to work very well as the trade requires importation and the exportation of commodities and this may lead to some sectors failing10.  The law advises the sea vessels to take precaution ally measures through following the set practices that were set and agreed upon by all the industry players. The law also provides steps and procedures that must be followed incase a vessel is hijacked in the high seas and what bodies that may come to the rescue of the hijacked vessel.

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