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Admiralty, or maritime law, is the private law of navigation and shipping and covers inland as well as marine waters. It is the entire body of laws, rules, legal concepts and procedures that relate to the use of marine resources, ocean commerce, and navigation. Maritime law was shaped by the practical needs of those countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea involved in maritime commerce, the roots of which are traced as far back as 900 B.C. Usually, the need was for legal solutions that had no application on land, therefore, as medieval codes began to emerge in port cities and states of Europe, the customs of mariners and merchants played a large part in the development of maritime laws. These early codes and customary law practices served to shape the current U. S. maritime law. The contracts, torts, offenses or injuries which are results of involvement in sea navigation or commerce make up this unique body of law.

The term, admiralty, specifically refers to the British courts in England and the American colonies, separate courts that traditionally exercised jurisdiction over all regulations and handling of disputes relating to sea navigation and commerce. The American courts in practice adopted English law and procedure, but chose early on to include national subject matter jurisdiction. The American colonies, after the Revolution provided, through the Judiciary Act of 1789 and Article III § 2 of the U.S. Constitution exclusive jurisdiction to the federal district courts over admiralty and maritime matters. The U.S. Congress regulates admiralty through the Commerce Clause, and provides national uniform rules which prevail in admiralty claims in national or international shipping and commerce.

The admiralty courts have limited jurisdiction but have remained a separate entity. They have expanded to include all activities on both the high seas and navigable waters. Admiralty jurisdiction is absolute in admiralty claims, and states cannot impose on this power, either through legislation or in the courts. The "saving to suitors" clause, of 28 U.S.C.A. § 1333(1) allows state courts to hear admiralty and maritime cases when the matter is a local one. The state court, even though it is the chosen venue to hear the case, must apply the federal law of admiralty to the admiralty claim,. When no federal statute is applicable, the uniform laws set up by the U.S. Supreme Court must be used, whether in federal or state court. If neither the statute nor the uniform law is applicable, the court may adopt the state law as the appropriate rule of decision. This is known as "maritime but local" approach in maritime law.

Much of U.S. maritime law has evolved through international maritime law in concert with maritime laws of other countries. Federal statutes dealing with maritime issues have been customized, with a basis coming from international treaties and resolutions.

The Admiralty and Maritime Law Guide, a comprehensive Internet resource guide, through the WWW Virtual Library, has detailed and current information, with links to admiralty resources, case digests and international conventions.
Other research guides can be found at Washlaw and Cornell LII websites. The following references have links to these guides.

The U.S. Code and C.F.R. can be found online at the following sites:
Government Printing Office website: GPO Access
U.S. House of Representatives Office of the Law Revision Counsel
THOMAS - Library of Congress

References in federal law include:
Federal Statutes:

Jurisdiction of Admiralty, Maritime, and Prize Cases - 28 U.S.C.§1333.

U.S. Coast Guard - 14 U.S.C.

Navigation and Navigable Waters - 33 U.S.C.

Shipping - 46 U.S.C.

Interstate Transportation-49 U.S.C., Subtitle IV

Federal Agency Regulations include:

33 C.F.R. - Navigation and Navigable Waters

46 C.F.R. - Shipping

Key Government Agencies are:

U.S. Coast Guard

U.S. Dept. of Transportation

Federal Maritime Commission -

Links to commission rules, instructions for filing forms

U.S. Maritime Administration

News, publications, and regulations on maritime transportation.


Key Committees:

U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation

U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure

U.S. Treaties- Text and Legislation:

THOMAS - Status of treaties-94th Congress-present; look under "Type of Treaty", or search by treaty document no., by keyword or phrase.

GPO Access - Senate, House, and Treaty documents.

Sources for federal court admiralty decisions include the following:

U.S. Supreme Court: Admiralty

U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeal-Admiralty

Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and Supplemental Rules for Admiralty and Maritime Claims

State Reference Sources:

State Statutes

State Court Web sites

Venue is the important consideration in any dispute involving maritime issues. Maritime precedents govern when cases involve water commerce, or commercial activity on navigable waters. Admiralty courts govern according to the country flag the ship is flying. If an American ship is in foreign waters, and a dispute occurs, the American admiralty law is the one applicable. American courts may refuse jurisdiction if the case involves applying the law of another country. International law, however, does seek to provide uniformity in admiralty law.

The international law of the sea, distinguished from admiralty and maritime law, has become much more important in the last century. Rules regarding the use and control of the sea and its resources, with the goal of preservation, have become more standardized. The United Nations organizes and prepares international rules governing the world's waters through such branches as the International Maritime Organization , dealing with maritime safety, prevention of pollution from ships and related subjects; and the International Labor Organization, the latter dealing with conventions on the health, safety and well-being of maritime workers.

Agreements such as the United Nations Law of the Sea Convention ,  uniformly acknowledged by all countries of the world, sets the standards for all of the other agreements of the international community. Marine and Coastal treaties and conventions which address international maritime issues are included in the Multilateral Conventions database at the Fletcher School at Tufts University. The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea handles international disputes and provides full-text documents related to the cases.

Key Internet References:
Admiralty : the first admiralty web site; primary focus is Canadian maritime and admiralty law. Links to other sites.

Institute of Maritime Law, University of Southhampton : largest centre in the United Kingdom on study and teaching of subject.

Admiralty and Maritime Law Guide : International Organizations : Links to major intergovernmental organizations, as well as maritime industry organization.

University of Capetown :marine and shipping law web site.

Ocean Law provides leading resources on international fisheries law, policy and management; a discussion list on ocean affairs.

Internet Guides for Maritime Law Research:
AustLII-Maritime Law Part of the World law section, it is a key source for comprehensive information such as case law, treaties and information by countries relating to marine law.

Findlaw-Admiralty A basic source that gathers together a wide variety of information sources, ranging from government documents, agencies, cases, and other related subjects and web sites.

Hieros Gamos-Space, Aviation and Admiralty Law Subject area that includes information on the law of navigation and shipping.

The Loyola Law Library Collection
Resources relevant to Maritime Law are found in different areas of the collection. The following are key subject areas in the Loyola Online Catalog:
Subject headings:

Admiralty Great Britain

Admiralty Great Britain Cases
Admiralty United States
Admiralty United States Cases
Admiralty United States Congresses
Admiralty United States History
Admiralty United States States
Coastal Zone Management

Economic Zones-Law of the Sea

Insurance, Marine (4 Related Subjects)

Law of the Sea

Marine Resources Development

Marine Pollution

Maritime Law-33 related subjects

Maritime Law Great Britain

Maritime Law Great Britain Cases

Maritime Law Periodicals

          Maritime Law-United States
          Maritime Liens
Ocean Bottom Maritime Law

Ocean Mining

Offshore Structures


Shore Protection

Territorial Waters - 9 related subjects

Underwater Archaeology-Law and Legislation

Treatises and Texts:
Aspinall, James Perronet, et al, A Treatise of the Law Relative to Merchant Ships and Seamen /

A treatise on seafarers, first published in 1802.
KF 1819 .A74 1993.

Benedict, Erastus. Benedict on Admiralty /

The authoritative American multivolume looseleaf treatise which covers all aspects of maritime law except marine insurance.
KF 1104 .B4 1950

British Shipping Laws: Stevens and Sons, 1982-

An authoritative English multivolume treatise which gives comprehensive treatment to maritime law. Each volulme covers a different topic.
KD 1819 (general area)

Davis, Charles M. Maritime Law Deskbook.

A looseleaf, one-volume reference presents major precedents and statutes relating to many topics of maritime law.
KF 1104 .D322 2001

Gilmore, Grant. The Law of Admiralty.

Recognized nationally and internationally as the leading general authority on admiralty law.
KF 1004 .G5 1975

Lloyds Practical Shipping Guides

Four handbooks which are handbooks focused on commercial shipping, insurance implications, and rules of shipping in Great Britain's laws.

Lloyds Shipping Law Library-8 titles

A variety of sources which focus on shipping laws and maritime claims, the focus being Great Britain and the European Community. The books are located in different subject area sections-e.g. K, KD, KJE

Maraist, Frank L. Admiralty in a Nutshell

Part of the nutshell series, it provides a concise overview of American maritime law. It gives important cases dealing with most topics concerning use of the seas and navigable waters.
KF 1105 .M34 2001

Pamborides, G.P. International Shipping Law; Legislation and Enforcement.

Jurisdiction and the responsibilities of the flag state in maritime law disputes are covered. The role of the IMO is discussed concerning safety in international waters and environmental policies at sea.
K 4157 .P36 1999

Power, Vincent J.G. EC Shipping Law

Aspects of shipping law in the European Community dealing with employment, environment and finance are examined.
KJE 2260 .P68 1998

Schoenbaum, Thomas J. Admiralty and maritime law

A hornbook that provides basic rules, principles and issues of admiralty and maritime law. Shoenbaum writes a casebook and other treatises on maritime law.
Reserve Collection KF 1104 .S36 2001

Tetley, William. International Conflict of Laws (Common, Civil, and Maritime)

Summaries of the conflict of laws in 41 countries, written by experts from each country.
K7449 .T47 1994

Wiswall, F. L.The development of admiralty jurisdiction and practice since 1800; an English study with American comparisons

The history and development of the Admiralty Court during the last two centuries is studied focusing on its jurisdiction and practice.
KD 1833 .W56

Looseleaf Services and Reporters:
AMC. American maritime cases.

A monthly case reporter, it is published by the Maritime Law Association of the United States. Five-year compilations of the index digest are produced for the set.
KF 2606 .A512

Benefits Review Board Service- Longshore Reporter

A biweekly, looseleaf service, it includes analysis of health and safety issues in the maritime industry. Along with statutes, rules and regulations, the decisions of the administrative law judge, Board opinions and their review in the federal courts.
KF 3613.4 .B45

Lloyd's law reports.

An English case reporter, published monthly, it is focused on English decisions, but does include cases the Commonwealth, Scotland and the United States. The Lloyd's Law Reports Consolidated Subject Index, 1919-1991, is used as a companion to the reports.
KD 1815 .A2 L5

Pike & Fischer Shipping Regulation

A biweekly looseleaf service, it gives both statutory and regulatory materials along with legislative histories. It also has policy and rules of the Maritime Administration as they appear in the C.F.R.
KF 1105 .P5

For further research sources, consult the following reference book:

Specialized Legal Research / Penny A. Hazelton

A looseleaf service which encompasses all of the areas of U.S. legal research. Admiralty and Maritime Law is covered in Chapter 7. It includes general resources as well as guides for the following areas: Collision and Shipowner Liability, Marine Insurance, Maritime Claims, Marine Transportation and Carriage by Water, Personal Injury and Wrongful Death, Salvage, Towage and Pilotage, and Marine Pollution.
REF KF 240 .S69 2001

For further assistance:
Contact Nona Beisenherz, Foreign & International Librarian in the library : Phone 504 861-5641 or