Four Pillars Of International Maritime Law

Executive summary

International maritime law stands on four strong pillars, namely Law of Sovereignty of Nations, Law of Freedom of the High seas, Law of Freedom of Contract and Legal Personality of a Ship. Each country is sovereign within is own political boundries, in which its laws apply. As a general rule, each one of the other three is dependant on this Law. Law of freedom of the high seas also allowed MAN to throw human waste into the seas both from ships and from coastal habitations. Today, to save and conserve our ecology and environment, this freedom of the high seas has to be curtailed. Ways and means have been found by the International Community, especially by USA, France and EU to curtail this freedom. Results are showing but more needs to be done. It is under the Law of Freedom of Contract that International Maritime Trade, Commerce and Transport is done. A Bill of Lading is basically a receipt issued by a ship in her own right for quantity of goods loaded on board, in good order and condition, under Law of Legal personality of ships. In time, different kinds of bills of lading have been devised, but in essence the nature of a B/L has not changed. Today a B/L made ‘to order’ for goods loaded on board in good order and condition, with port of loading and destination, whether freight has been paid, endorsed on it, is more than a receipt. It is usually an essential document required by bankers under L/C’s established by them on behalf of importer, on the basis of which bankers honor their L/C’s in favor of exporters. This way the International Community makes guaranteed payments through bankers to exporters on behalf of importers across International boundries. Furthermore such a B/L is a document of title, and a negotiable instrument. Goods can be bought and sold by selling the B/L, even when goods are still at sea in transit.

Full Article

lawzmagazine.comInternational maritime law stands on four strong pillars, namely Law of Sovereignty of Nations, Law of Freedom of the High seas, Law of Freedom of Contract and Legal Personality of a Ship.  Cardinal principle of International Maritime Law, is the principle of sovereignty of Nations. This principle has been rarely violated unless one country subjugates another, with or without justification. Domination of Great Britain on an Empire on which the sun never set is one example. Hitler’s invasions in Europe were another.  Invasion of Iraq by USA is the most recent example.

Articles 2 and 3 of United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea 1982, (UNCLOS), have added sea areas up to 12 nautical miles from coastal base lines, called  territorial waters, into the sovereignty of coastal states. Sea areas outside the territorial waters are International waters. Articles 17, 18 and 19 of this convention, limit this sovereignty of a Coastal State in its territorial waters, by providing that foreign flag vessels enjoy the right of innocent passage through this strip of coastal waters, and define what innocent passage is. It is also stipulated that when ships are in the territorial waters of another country even on innocent passage, they are subject to Law of the Coastal State. In essence, it means that regardless of Flag of the ship and nationality of her crew such ships should not prejudice peace, good order or security of the Coastal State during their passage.

It is optional on coastal states, to exercise their criminal jurisdiction within their territorial waters which mainly depends upon whether a crime committed therein, disturbs its peace and good order. Most countries exercise such jurisdiction if a victim OR the suspected offender is a citizen of that state. Japan has now amended their penal code in light of the Tajima incident to extend its criminal jurisdiction in cases where the victim is a Japanese national. This, even if the crime is committed by non-Japanese suspects, on a foreign-flag vessel, on the high seas.

How strictly Law of jurisdiction within territorial waters of a country, can be applied if it chooses to do so, can be demonstrated by the following case.

As Seafarers do, in their spare time all over the world, especially since it does no harm, a seaman threw a fishing line over side, from the stern rail of his foreign flag ship, anchored and waiting to enter a US harbor. But to fish in US waters requires a license. US Coast Guard promptly boarded the ship and arrested the seaman because HE was fishing contrary to US Law, and also the Master because he personified the ship which contravened US Law.

From time immemorial, it has been accepted that High Seas belong to the entire human race, i.e to ALL six thousand million humans on this earth. This is the second pillar of International Maritime Law and is usually exerted by most nations AND individuals as an inherent right. This principle is now incorporated in Article 87 and other articles of Part VII of Unclos. It is under this principle that ships of all nationalities are able to carry goods from country to country across the oceans, without let or hindrance. But this right of freedom of the High Seas is subject to Law of Nationality. For example, in about 1500 A.D the Chinese Emperor Hong Zhi, made it a capital offence for any of his subjects to sail the high seas. Subsequently, he even ordered all seagoing ships to be destroyed. It was due to this reason that the immense Chinese sea power of earlier years, under Admiral Cheng Ho, was wiped out. It has taken China, five centuries to come back into their own, in shipping.

lawzmagazine.comBut “Might is always right.” Therefore a Nation powerful enough, may block the high seas to fellow man or to another Nation, at will by might of arms. President Kennedy laid a blockade against the approach of Russian ships to Cuba in October 1962, against all cannons of International law, as it affected right of freedom of the High Seas to Russian ships, not to talk of Cuba’s Sovereign rights. But neither the Russians nor the Cubans could afford to fight the Americans and rest of the world remained silent. Therefore Kennedy got away with it.

Freedom of the high seas, has also been interpreted by man to mean freedom to throw his waste into the seas, as his  birth right. Thus human waste has been thrown into the seas from coastal habitations for centuries, not forgetting sewerage, garbage, oil tank washings, bilges and what not, from ships. In fifty years from 1948 to 1998, world shipping increased from 98 million tons, to 550 million tons. This coupled with increase in world population and coastal habitations, pollutants being thrown into the oceans by ships today, including all what comes from the coastal belts, are affecting the environment of our earth. Hence the necessity to curb this freedom and conventions such as Marpol.

Apart from such pollutants, estimated 10 billion tons of salt water is being carried yearly across oceans, by Merchant ships. Ballast water transports live micro organisms with it, which easily pass through the water pipes of ships. When this water is pumped out, live alien species are injected into a different environment miles away from their natural habitat. This affects local environment and ecology and also causes a lot of harm to local fisheries etc.

Therefore, it has also become necessary to curb this freedom of the high seas and to find ways and means to stop the migration of live micro organisms across Oceans through large quantities of salt water ballast. Hence ballast water control.

Under Art 92 of Unclos, all ships on the high seas, are subject to exclusive jurisdiction of the Flag State. Therefore, conventions such as Marpol can only be enforced by them. But Flag States, especially flags of convenience States, do not have the infrastructure or the will to control their flag vessels, from polluting the high seas, miles away from their own coasts. Hence regulations on Ballast water control and International Conventions such as Marpol continue to be flouted by their ships with impunity. Therefore, to lay the onus directly on ships and ship owners, Bimco, Intercargo, International Chamber of Shipping, International Shipping Federation, Intertanko and the Oil Companies International Marine Forum, jointly issued basic guidance in September 2006, emphasizing the vital importance of strict adherence to International Maritime Organization (IMO) requirements, committed to a zero-tolerance approach, to any non-compliance with the IMO MARPOL Convention, including the use of oily water separators. These guidelines add that no-one should engage in any illegal conduct in the mistaken belief that it will benefit their employer.  Severe legal consequences have been outlined, both for the company and the seafarers.

Ship operators have ultimate responsibility to establish a compliance culture on their ships. Even the most minor violations of MARPOL will, be detected by the authorities and violators punished. Fines of  millions of dollars, can be imposed, both on company management and seafarers. They can also be liable to criminal prosecution and imprisonment for any deliberate violation of MARPOL such as by passing the Oil Water separators, or falsification of records. In France, The Loi Perben extends the concept of individual criminal liability for causing pollution beyond the Master, to owners, managers and others. Since March 2004, ships are being intercepted even on suspicion of pollution and brought into French ports to face fines and jail sentences even on questionable evidence. Foreign Masters convicted of even unintentional pollution face up to 7 years in jail and are  open to fine up to $880,000 OR four times the value of the cargo on board. Furthermore, OPA 90, Clean Waters Act CWA, APPS and allied Laws of USA, are being strictly enforced by US authorities on world shipping in more ways than one. US authorities have also found ways and means to enforce antipollution rules in recent years, on ships of all flags bound for USA, for even polluting the high seas, miles away from their own coasts.

lawzmagazine.comThe third Pillar on which International Maritime Law stands is the law of Freedom of contract. Whether it is under a Charter Party or a Bill of Lading, International Maritime trade is carried out on the basis of freedom of contract.  For example a Charterer in one country can charter a foreign flag ship, to carry cargo from a third country to a fourth country. But all these parties are able to enter into such contracts, subject to laws of their own nationalities. Similarly, a foreign national may contract to serve on a Panama Flag ship owned by Greek owners time chartered to British Charterers, to ply between Australia and Japan, subject to the laws which restrict or prohibit his own actions as national of his country. Till 1995, Master, Chief officer and Chief Engineer of a British Ship had to be of British Nationality. Under American Laws, Master officers and crew of a ship flying the American Flag have to be first born Americans. Therefore owners of such flag vessels could not contract with seafarers of other nationalities for those ships and positions. In some countries such as Panama, only those holding a Panama certificate of Competency can command Panama Flag Ships.

Similarly, traders are only able to enter into contracts with other nationals subject to their National laws and laws of countries of origin and destination of cargoes. For example, during the Arab Boycott of South Africa under their apartheid regime, no Arab country could contract to supply oil to South Africa. Again for many years, India had no relationship with Portugal and no Indian could enter into a contract to trade with the Portuguese.

Fourth pillar of International Maritime Law is that a ship has a legal personality of her own in addition to being property of the owner. Under Art 91 of UNCLOS, every State is required to fix conditions for registration and grant of nationality to every marine craft they recognize as a ship and to give her the right to fly its flag. This way she acquires a legal personality. She can do wrong. Damage caused by her to third parties through collision is a typical example of her own wrong doing for which she is liable. She has other liabilities. If a ship receives an essential service, the service provider gets a right to exact payment from her if owner fails to pay. She can be arrested AND even sold, to pay her debts. She also has rights, e.g. to receive freight. But since she has no eyes, ears, hands or brain, Master personifies her. HIS order may make her liable for damage caused by a collision. His signature on a receipt for supply of bunker oil or essential stores or repairs to the ship, makes the SHIP liable to pay, if owner fails to pay. Obviously such liability could not exceed value of the ship herself.

lawzmagazine.comThis is the mainstay of International Trade and Commerce. A ship acknowledges receipt of cargo loaded on board in her own right, with essential details of what and how much was loaded, in what condition, at which port, and for which destination.  This receipt known as Bill of Lading also contains terms and conditions under which cargo is carried. If freight is not paid the B/L is marked ‘Freight to Pay.’ Shippers used to mail the B/L to buyer abroad to enable him to take delivery of the goods at destination. Due to postal uncertainties, practice developed to issue three originals which shipper sent to consignee by three different Mails. Any one having been honored, the other two automatically became null and void.  In time this document has not only become a contract of carriage but also an instrument negotiable through banks. It is also a document of title. Holder has a right to the goods and is their owner. As maritime traffic became more regular with steam ships, owners employed clever lawyers who drafted clauses absolving the ship and owners from all and every liability for carriage of goods by sea. These clauses were printed on the back of their B/L’s as part of the contract of carriage. This left shippers little remedy even if their cargo was never delivered!

Hence Hague rules 1924, which gave considerable relief to shippers. A protocol was adopted in 1968 at Visby, to amend these rules. The new rules are called Hague Visby Rules. Many Maritime Nations including most commonwealth countries, have enacted laws which incorporate Hague Rules 1924, and/or Hague Visby rules 1968, which are widely known and used by merchants and mariners alike. Thus under laws of most countries, freedom to stipulate terms and conditions of carriage, is subject to Hague rules and/or Hague Visby rules. Under theses rules, ship owner must exercise DUE DELIGENCE to make his ship seaworthy before and at beginning of the voyage. The carrier must ‘properly and carefully load, handle, carry, keep, care for and discharge’ the goods, to be entitled to take protection under the seventeen exceptions to liability under these Rules, which protect ship owners for damage caused to goods through ‘Perils of the sea’. If unavoidable damage is caused to goods, through marine perils during the voyage, ship/owners are not liable. An American Judge, defined ‘unavoidable’ as “something so catastrophic as to triumph over safe guards by which skilful and vigilant seamen usually bring ship and cargo to port in safety.”

With containerization, cargo usually moves from factory door in one country, to importer’s door  in a different country, involving different modes of transportation, in which sea transit may be one. Under multimodal transport systems, a B/L maybe issued miles away from the ship, even by a road transporter. Therefore there have been many modifications to the Law pertaining to carriage of goods by sea. In liner trades, B/L’s are invariably issued by trusted, well established agency houses, with a one line printed letter, usually signed by the  master authorizing agents to sign B/L’s on behalf of the ship. But legal character of a B/L remains a contract between the ship and shipper and a receipt by the ship, signed by the Master or agent, on her behalf. B/L signed by or under authority of Master, means more today, for bankers in International trade and commerce, who issue Letters of Credit L/C, under which a B/L is usually essential.

Under this Documentary Credit System, Billions of dollars worth of L/C’s are issued and honored by bankers world wide, to make commercial payments to unknown exporters in foreign countries, based on Count and description of goods as per B/L. Depending upon terms of the L/C, goods are bought or sold through Negotiable B/L’s, even while still on the high seas. Holder can endorse it to buyer for value received, unless B/L is non negotiable, i.e not “To Order.” It is usually transacted first through the exporter’s bank in his country and finally, through the importers Bank in the country of destination. When original B/L reaches the importer’s bank, which usually establishes the L/C, it pays to exporter’s bank, debits the importer and delivers B/L to him. If importer receives the goods without producing B/L to the ship, he gets the goods free.

Recently, Supreme Court of Finland held that where an agent delivered the goods without taking possession of the original B/L, he is liable in damages suffered by the exporter who did not get paid by the buyer’s Bank for the goods he shipped. Because B/L never came into the hands of the buyer’s bank which established the L/C, they could not bill the importer and therefore could not pay to exporter’s bank.  But in practice, if there is delay to receive B/L’s through banks, importer normally furnishes a bank guarantee or a LOI to obtain delivery of the goods without the B/L.

Again, in a Maersk line case1, container was delivered at destination against production of a fraudulent B/L. A British Court  held against ship owners and ruled that B/L is THE KEY to the goods as it represents and secures legal title to goods and to their physical possession. Only very clear words would exempt a ship owner from his liability to deliver goods except against a genuine original B/L, which owner should be able to recognize.

lawzmagazine.comLord Denning’s observations2 in this respect, are most appropriate when he said that “It is a perfectly clear law that a ship owner who delivers without production of the B/L does so at his peril. The contract is to deliver, on production of a Bill of Lading, to the person entitled under the Bill of Lading.” He further added “The shipping company……delivered the goods, without production of the Bill of Lading, to a person who was not entitled to receive them.”…… “No court can allow so fundamental a breach to pass unnoticed under the cloak of a general exemption clause”

B/L performs functions, which a C/P cannot. For example, a C/P cannot certify quantity and condition of goods shipped. A B/L does. It also binds the carrier to deliver the goods to its holder, who may not be the Charterer, “in same good order and condition”. Therefore where C/P exists a B/L may be an essential document. But a B/L can exist without a C/P. The concept of B/L being a negotiable instrument and document of title, has also given rise to frauds from time to time.

M.V. Lord Byron, 8200 DWT3, sub chartered to carry a load of sugar, was kept idle in Bangkok for 13 days waiting for cargo, to make out a case that she took 13 days to load 10000 tons Sugar. During this time Charterer’s agent invited Master ashore many times, and entertained him with every facility, courtesy and hospitality. Suddenly, on a Saturday afternoon, 6874 bags of sugar were loaded from few barges, against 6874 TONS nominated by Master. At 0400 Sunday, the same charterer’s agent who had entertained the Master lavishly, told him to SAIL as charterers had already lost a lot of money by detaining the ship waiting for cargo. He assured the Master that demurrage and dead freight will be paid, but that since neither B/L could be signed, nor manifest prepared that early on a Sunday morning, all these would be forwarded to Master at port of discharge. Master fell for it and gave written authority to charterer’s agents to sign B/L. L/C for $ 5.9 Million was negotiated in the Bank early Monday morning, by submitting B/L’s under master’s written authority.

Ship was detained by Somali authorities as she should have brought 11000 Tons, not 6874 bags of Sugar, for which they paid US$ 5.9 Million under  L/C. Master explained that a vessel of 8200 DWT, cannot carry 11000 tons of sugar and that he nominated only 6874 tons but loaded only 6874 BAGS, but failed to convince Somali authorities that he had not participated in a fraud against Somali people.

More recently, The Hamburg Rules were framed by a Convention on Carriage of Goods by Sea, which made some fundamental changes to the Form of B/L, and to some details, as also to laws applicable to B/L’s. This convention has also defined a B/L in so many words, for the first time ever.  “ A document which evidences a contract of carriage by sea and the taking over or loading of the goods by the carrier, and by which the carrier undertakes to deliver the goods against surrender of the document.” Hague-Visby rules do not apply to inward shipments. Hamburg Rules apply to ALL contracts of carriage by sea, whether in writing or not, without regard to Ship’s Flag, provided Port of loading OR Discharge is located in a contracting State or if contract of carriage is issued in a contracting State.

Hamburg rules also apply if the contract provides that this convention is to govern! This includes the carrier, actual carrier, shipper and consignee! ‘Carrier’ includes any person by whom or in whose name a contract of carriage of goods by sea has been concluded.

 Actual Carrier has been defined in Article 1(2), which includes truckers, stevedores and terminal agents. Article 10 holds the ocean carrier responsible for acts of the actual carrier. Liability of Carrier & Actual Carrier, has been made joint and several. But a single limit of liability applies. Shipper holds that party responsible in whose name B/L was issued. A merchant can include a clause in HIS contract that Hamburg rules will apply, regardless of whether his country has ratified this convention or not.

Under Hague Visby Rules, carrier is responsible from ‘Tackle to Tackle’. Art 4 of Hamburg Rules extend responsibility from the time carrier ‘takes over’ the goods even on a truck at factory door, to point of delivery. Now Carrier is liable for DELAY in delivery. Consignee can treat the goods as lost if they are not delivered within 60 days after expected time of delivery. Exceptions covering negligence in Navigation and management of the ship, have been abolished. Deck Cargo shipped in agreement with shipper is covered. To issue 3 original B/L’s, is optional. But Hamburg Rules have neither received ratifications necessary for their entry into force, nor adopted by any state with a major share of seaborne world trade. Therefore the 1968 Hague-Visby Rules are still widely used.

When C/P requires that Master is to sign B/L’s as presented, it does not mean that Master cannot endorse actual condition and/or quantity of cargo loaded on board. Bonafide buyer of a B/L is entitled to rely on accurate count and description of the goods as endorsed on it. Sometimes shippers try to persuade the Master not to make such endorsements. They either confront him with the above cited clause or alternatively offer him a letter of indemnity in exchange of a clean B/L. If master falls prey to such persuations, he participates in a fraud against ultimate buyers of the B/L by not correctly describing condition and/or quantity of the goods loaded on board. Also an indemnity letter of a foreign shipper, is not enforceable against a consignee/receiver in another country.

In 2002, a British Court4, defined the nature of master’s duty to issue and clause B/L and circumstances under which he is entitled to decline to sign clean B/L. Specifications of Goods to be loaded on “David Agmashenebeli” were “Urea in Bulk, white color, free flowing, free from contamination etc. C/P terms were, “Master to sign B/L as presented, in conformity with Mate’s or Tally Clerk’s receipts”. Documents to be presented under L/C were a full set of clean on board B/L’s, and a certificate of quality to be issued by Independent Inspector. It was also provided that, “no damaged cargo to be loaded into the holds.” Master had the right to stop loading. Within three hours after loading commenced, Master informed all parties, that cargo contained rust, plastics and other contaminants, and was of a dirty color, and sent a letter of protest. Mates receipt was endorsed, “Cargo discolored also foreign materials e.g. plastic, rust, rubber, stone, black particles found in cargo.” B/L was endorsed accordingly.

Banks refused to honor L/C under claused B/L. An inspection report at discharge port  concluded that cargo was in normal condition. Owners contended in courts that what mattered was not actual apparent condition but what an ordinary, reasonably skilled master, honestly believed to be ‘apparent order and condition’.  Claimants argued that as a responsible and reasonable ship’s officer, Master could only sign B/L which accurately stated apparent order and condition of the goods. Held that Master should make up his mind whether in so far as he could see, the cargo appeared to satisfy its description in B/L. If he honestly believed that cargo was not in apparent good order and condition, and that was a view which could properly be held by a reasonably observant Master, he was entitled to qualify the B/L. But if he honestly took an ECCENTRIC view of apparent condition of the cargo, which would not be shared by any other reasonably observant Master, he would not be justified in qualifying the B/L. On evidence, the level of contamination in the cargo prior to loading was slight. Master was entitled to clause mate’s receipt to say that a small proportion of the cargo was discoloured but not to use words which conveyed the meaning that entire or a substantial part of the cargo was affected. Since the urea was not entirely white in color, Master should have referred to partial discoloration.

In Sea Success Maritime Inc v African Maritime Carriers Ltd5., Master was authorized to reject any cargo that is “subject to clausing of B/L’s.” Cargo of hot rolled steel coils was tendered for shipment in a damaged condition. Master refused to permit it to be loaded. Survey report stated that the hot rolled steel coils had been kept in an open store, subject to adverse weather conditions. Cargo was rusty, with a percentage of it suffering from dents and buckles. Arbitrators held that on true construction of clause 52, master was entitled and obliged to reject cargo presented for shipment.

It was held on appeal in the QBD by Mr.Justice Atkin on 15.7.2005, that under specific provisions of T/C, Master was obliged to sign B/L” as presented”. But if he inaccurately described the cargo as being in “good” or “apparent good” condition, it would make a misrepresentation of fact. If on examining the cargo, Master took the view that he would have to qualify the B/L, either charterers/shippers had to agree to change the description of cargo in the draft B/L, or Master had to qualify, or “clause” B/L, as to its apparent good order and condition, assessed by him. If shippers insisted on THEIR description and Master reasonably concluded that it was not correct, he had the right and duty to reject the cargo leaving shippers with a choice to take back their cargo.

The M.V ‘Normadic’6 carried  goods from Holland to Apapa. Defendants used the vessel as a were house after arrival. Plaintiff claimed demurrage/damages for detention. B/L’s were 1978 Congen bills, stated to be used with charter parties.  Clause 1 printed on back of B/L stated that all terms, conditions, liberties and exceptions of the charter party were incorporated in the B/L. Defendants disclaimed liability, arguing that they were strangers to the charter party.

The Nigerian Supreme Court rejected this argument and held that B/L properly incorporated terms and conditions of C/P and defendants were bound by it. The Court further added that appellants, having taken delivery of the goods as consignees must know or be deemed to have had notice of terms and conditions of the charter parties.


Tolawzmagazine.comday, Master is rarely signs B/L’s. They are usually signed under his authority. Also, Through B/L’s are signed miles away from the ship. When C/Pstipulates that Master is to sign B/L as presented, it does not mean that he should sign them clean even when cargo is damaged or if quantity of cargo is not what is stated on the face of the B/L. L/C may require cargo to be shipped before a certain date and may not remain valid if cargo is not loaded before that date. Master never sees the L/C and would not know this. But B/L MUST be dated in accordance with the date cargo was shipped, otherwise it is a fraud against ultimate holder of B/L, and a letter of indemnity does not alter the nature of such a fraud.

B/L being a document of title, unless Master has clear instructions from owners, he must not lose possession of cargo unless B/L is produced. Even though a straight B/L cannot be endorsed to transfer constructive possession of  goods to someone else, a carrier is still obliged to deliver, only against an original B/L, but to the named consignee. When B/L is produced and cargo delivered, it must be endorsed ‘accomplished’ to avoid subsequent frauds.

Under Unclos 1982, ships come under Laws of the country where they are. Freight prepaid B/L’s do not usually pose problems in foreign countries. But ‘Freight collect’ or ‘freight to pay’ B/L’s are usually a problem if receiver does not pay before discharge of Cargo. Master has lien on Cargo for unpaid freight, local laws may intervene in exercising such lien in a foreign country. Also it may be impractical or very expensive to exercise lien and the ship may be delayed. There can be other issues pertaining to cargo and B/L’s in a foreign country especially under local laws.

Historically the International commercial and trading communities, have always engineered to amend rules of private International Maritime law, from century to century and from year to year, to protect and advance their own interests, to suit exigencies of their times and in accordance with requirements of trade and commerce. For example today there are many types of Bills of Lading such as received for shipment B/L, way Bills, straight consigned BLs, switch B/Ls etc etc., all devised by trade, to suit exigencies and requirements of their times.  Most countries of the world have usually accepted and enforced such variations within their sovereign territories, in the interest of International Interaction and for their own prosperity which comes in the wake of International trade, and Commerce.

Finally for over 200 years since the modern University system began, there has been an ongoing debate amongst academics whether there is anything such as International Law or for THAT matter International Maritime Law, at all!? Those who say yes, claim that most prevailing rules and traditions are normally followed by most countries world wide, and that therefore the core of International Law in general and International Maritime Law in particular, cannot be ignored or disputed.

Those against, say that if any one and any country in the world can violate traditional  International Law and International Maritime Law with impunity, through might and AT will, whatever rules the International community devises and whatever Law each country promulgates, has no force and no sanctity. Therefore International Law or International Maritime Law, remains, what it has always been, Law of the Jungle, despite UNCLOS 1982, despite a volume of International conventions and despite what Govt. of any country may profess. Thus the debate continues.

Worse still is what Ship owners, charterers, shippers and other do, to suit their own purposes and to cater to their own interests, to devise ways and means to bypass every established rule and law so long as they can get away with it, regardless of the country to which they may belong. Hence this article mainly to alert our 32000 senior Nauticals and Engineers who sail ships of virtually every nationality and are the BEST in the world, that what ever they find wrong and whatever they do,  can be traced to one of these four basic principles of International maritime Law, which have been handed down to us from generation to generation of seafarers since time immemorial.

There is an old proverb-




Capt A K Bansal,

L.L.B. (Hons) London,

Master Mariner, Bar at Law


[1] EWHC [2004] 2929 (Comm) 15 December 2004

[2] Sze Hai Tong Bank v Rambler Cycles Co [1959] 3 All England Reports 182

[3] Unreported?

[4] David Agmashenebeli English Admiralty Court: [2002] Colman J.: 31st May

[5] Sea Success Maritime Inc v African Maritime Carriers Ltd. [2005] EWHC 1542 (Comm)

[6] Sea trade Groningen B.V Vs P.A.Awolaja ( M.V.Normadic)














2 thoughts on “Four Pillars Of International Maritime Law”

  1. Yatin says:

    News is accurate ,nice

  2. Pinku says:

    All that happens ,happens for the betterment of society

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