When Is An Issue Subject To Maritime Law?

Law Blog

Maritime law may sound old-timey, especially if you don't own a boat or deal with water-based vessels. However, much of the world's commercial traffic operates under maritime law. Likewise, some personal activities fall into this category.

You may wonder when maritime law governs an issue. Here is how you can tell.

Navigable Waterways

All activities on navigable waterways are subject to maritime law. In the U.S., the Army Corps of Engineers defines when a region counts as a navigable waterway. Unsurprisingly, if businesses use a body of water to transport goods between separate destinations owned by different entities, the Corps will almost certainly declare it navigable. Even if a body of water isn't traditionally used for commerce, it might still be if the ebb and flow of the tides noticeably affect it.

There may also be state-level definitions. If you're concerned that you might have an issue in this domain, it's wise to contact a maritime lawyer who has a license in your state. Notably, a waterway must connect to a different state or another country to fall under federal jurisdiction. Otherwise, the only applicable laws will come from the state containing the waterway.


If something happens on a navigable waterway, you can bet it's the subject of maritime law. One of the oldest issues is the insurance of goods and ships transiting waterways. Shipping also fits. Accidents at sea fall under maritime law, including many cases that would be workers' compensation claims if they happened onshore. If you need to place a lien on a vessel, you'll likely have to request it from a maritime court.

Salvage is a particularly thorny issue in maritime law. People often make the mistake of believing that all disabled or sunken vessels are fair game for salvage. However, the salvaging party has to meet certain criteria. For example, no one with a duty to assist can claim salvage rights. Consequently, the Coast Guard and its sailors aren't entitled to salvage anything in the course of their duties.

Another source of difficulty in maritime law is accidents. Vessel collisions can lead to prolonged lawsuits. Oil spills are often highly visible accidents that produce significant litigation and even criminal prosecutions. Grounded vessels present notable problems in maritime law, too.

There are also plenty of maritime contracts. Shipping agreements are the most common, but you'll also find disputes involving chartered vessels for parties and vacations. Even facility maintenance issues can fall into the category.

Contact a maritime lawyer to learn more. 


10 May 2023

Do You Understand The Law?

When it comes to your personal rights, how much do you really understand the law. About ten years ago, I realized that I didn't really understand my rights when I was accused of something that I knew I didn't do. I could tell that I needed to work with a lawyer who had a better understanding of what I was up against, so I contacted a local team that could help. They were really incredible to work with, and I was impressed with how well they were able to fight the charges. This blog is here for anyone struggling with legal drama.