Maritime law, also referred to as admiralty law or the laws of the sea, is a collection of domestic and international laws and treaties that govern behaviour on the sea. The United Nations through the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) issues conventions that can be enforced by coast guards and the navies of most signatory countries.
Maritime law can govern many insurance issues regarding cargo on ships, civil matters between owners of vessels and passengers and piracy issues. It also covers registration, inspection and insurance of ships.
The UK is the leading legal service provider for the maritime community with more than forty law firms active in the sector. English law is applied to shipping disputes far more widely than the law of any other country. Therefore, because of this wide specialism in the UK, some universities here also provide maritime law as an option particularly in their LLM courses or master’s degrees.
The IMO has 174 member states and the governments of these states are responsible for implementing the following international conventions:
Within UK law there are specific maritime statutory instruments that are backed up with marine notices of which there are three types – merchant shipping notices, marine guidance notes and marine information notes as well as codes of practice.
When applying maritime law you have to take into consideration both public international and private regulations in place. Private maritime law includes the laws and regulations domestically which deal with maritime or nautical issues and shipping within that particular territory.
On the other hand, public maritime law deals with these issues more globally and for this reason, will more generally apply to a larger number of territories or countries.
However, despite this, many scholars suggest that the difference is inconsequential because maritime law and regulation is such an international necessity that it is hard to categorise what is public and what is private law.
Shipping law is a sub-section of maritime law dealing with aspects of what is explained above – specifically the movement of goods and passengers by sea. It can be divided into “wet” and “dry.” Wet are the issues that occur on the actual voyage and dry encapsulates the contracts involved in the voyage.
Most disputes arising out of these areas are greatly based on contract and tort laws, therefore, if these are modules you enjoy whilst completing your LLB or LPC this might be the type of specialism which you would excel in.
If you are interested in pursuing a career in Maritime law, you must first obtain a qualifying degree in law or a degree in any other discipline followed by a Graduate Diploma in Law. After this, if you want to follow the solicitor pathway you will have to undertake the Legal Practice Course and a recognised period of training.
To become a barrister in the field, you’ll do the BPTC and then a year-long pupillage.
If you are sure that this the area of law that you want to practice in, there are training contracts and pupillages available with law firms and chambers which have a maritime specialism. This will put you on the right course to practice in this area post qualification.
Examples of some firms which specialise in or have a department dedicated to the area include Stephenson Harwood LLP, Holman Fenwick Willan, Reed Smith LLP and Watson Farley & Williams LLP.
As with many different areas of the law, the highest salaries for maritime lawyers will be found in London with salaries tending to decrease the more north you move. One statistical website found that the average salary for a maritime lawyer lies at around £60,000.
However, as with every area, a typical remuneration package will vary depending on which firm you work for, where you’re based and, of course, what stage you’re at in your career.
If you’re hoping to become a barrister, salary is likely to be less stable due to the freelance nature of the job, but you will have the potential to earn more in the long run.
Read any of the below books for a more in-depth understanding of the topic.
|Institute of Maritime Law and Professor Yvonne Baatz
|Maritime Law (Maritime and Transport Law Library)
|Marine Insurance Law
|Principles of the Carriage of Goods by Sea
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