Most people are unfamiliar with maritime law because it is not as widely taught as mainstream law topics. Most countries with access to ports and ocean travel have their own maritime laws, but international waters are not governed by local legislation.
A series of international treaties provide a basis for maritime law.
The Safety of Life at Sea Convention defines the minimum safety standards for those shipping services that travel in international waters. Although some carriers, such as smaller carriers, have exclusions, most are bound by these regulations. The most recent version dates back to 1974 and addresses everything from fire safety to maintenance.
The International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships is an environmental protection agreement. Every signatory country’s ships must comply with this convention in an effort to prevent the contamination of ocean waters by ships, including how they handle fuel and hazardous materials.
The Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping define the standards required for staffing the crews of vessels. The standards define mandatory experience and education for specific crew members to ensure safety on each ship.
The Maritime Labor Convention is the newest of the agreements dating from 2013. This agreement establishes minimum ages, hourly work requirements and rest hours. The details of this agreement prioritize worker safety.
These are fundamental elements of maritime law. Understand the conventions and agreements that govern ships directly at your shores and in international waters. The more you understand, the easier it is to identify potential violations and safety issues.