Admiralty Law is also known as the Maritime Law. It is a distinguished branch of law that governs maritime offenses and questions. It is also a branch of law of both private international law and domestic law governing the relationship between private entities of operating ocean vessels as well as maritime activities. This law covers matters related to transportation of goods and people by the sea, sailors, shipping, maritime navigation, and maritime commerce. It also covers numerous commercial activities whether occuring on land or land-based as long as the character is related to maritime.
Admiralty Law is different from the Law of the Sea. The latter refers to the branch of public international law dealing with jurisdiction over coastal waters, mineral rights, and navigational rights. It also deals with the international law that governs the relationship among the nations. In the recent decades, many significant international laws have been developed and characterized for the Admiralty Law. These international laws also include varioua multilateral treaties. This is despite the fact that every legal jurisdiction has its own governing maritime legislation.
One of the earliest channels of commerce is the Seaborne Transport.This transport governs the rules for resolving maritime trade disputes that were developed during the early recorded years. Rhodian Law was one of the early historical records of Seaborne Transport. This law has no primary written evidence of its survival but is alluded into other legal texts most particularly Byzantine and Roman legal codes. Another early historical records of the transport was the Hanseatic League.
One major contributor to the international Admiralty Law is the Islamic Law, which is different from Byzantine and Roman maritime laws in many ways. Islamic Law include Muslim sailors being paid in advance with fixed wages. The purpose of this agreement is that Muslim sailors may possible owe money in any event of malfeasance or desertion as they keep with their Islamic conventions. This agreement is contrasting to the Byzantine and Roman sailors because they were only paid in proportional divisions from the profits of the sea venture. In addition, the shares of divisions are alloted accordingly by rank or after the successful conclusion of every voyage.
The Muslim jurists of the Islamic Law gives distinction between the voyages on the high seas and the coastal navigation. They also made shippers liable for freight in most situations except the seizure of its cargo and the ship. Islamic Law separated from the Nomos Rhodion Nautikos and Justinian’s Digest in condeming slave jettison. This law grealy infulences the development of international sea laws.
Eleanor of Aquitaine introduced Admiralty Law to England. She was the acting regent to King Richard the Lionheart, her son. Prior to the introduction of the law to England, she had already established an admiralty law to the Oleron Island in her own hands. In many admiralty law books, she is often referred as “Eleanor of Guyenne”.
During the American Revolution, admiralty courts became prominent feature. Eventually, Admiralty Law became a part of the United States laws after it was adopted in 1789 under the U.S. Constitution. Most of the American lawyers during the revolution were maritime and admiralty lawyers in occupation. Among them are John Adams of Massachusetts, and Alexander Hamilton of New York.