Maritime law


The Admiralty Court is also known as the ‘maritime court’, and deals with all matters relating to maritime law. The jurisdiction of the maritime court is with the High Court of England and Wales.

Disputes in the maritime court are usually involving large sums of money. It is therefore highly advisable to seek legal representation if you are dispute with a shipping firm or private owner.

Types of maritime disputes

The laws that the Admiralty Court applies are civil laws based on the Law of the Sea (properly called The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea [UNCLOS]) that govern how each country within the United Nations uses the world's oceans. The maritime court is based at the Royal Courts of Justice in London.

Maritime law deals with matters relating to:

  • Marine commerce
  • Navigation and shipping
  • The conduct of sailors
  • The transportation of passengers and goods by sea

Maritime law also holds jurisdiction over many commercial activities which although conducted entirely on land involve maritime matters and hence fall under that court’s jurisdiction.

Maritime disputes are handled by the Admiralty Court and deal with:


  • Collisions
  • The carriage of cargo
  • Mortgages disputes
  • The salvage of vessels

International disputes

Admiralty law is a separate part of the laws that govern the UK. As merchant shipping is carried out on an international scale, the law and the maritime court apply both national and international law to cases. The maritime laws also cover sailor's conduct, and maritime navigation.

Anyone involved in merchant shipping must ensure they fully understand their responsibilities regarding the national and international laws they must comply with. As the Law of the Sea has an international component it is crucial to get qualified legal advice if charged with an offence.


Increasingly, maritime law is concerning itself with the issue of piracy. Modern day piracy is on the increase, with hot spots like the Gulf of Aden regularly on the news. Owners of vessels which negotiate such areas are now taking legal advice from maritime lawyers to self-protect. There are now agreements on ‘best practice’ in these situations, which have been endorsed by the NATO Shipping Centre.

Do you need to attend the Admiralty Court regarding a shipping issue? Contact Law can recommend a specialist solicitor to represent your best interests. Please call us on 0800 1777 162 or complete the web-form above.

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