What is Admiralty Proceeding

An admiralty proceeding is any matter that comes before an admiralty court that involves shipping or a shipping vessel. Admiralty law (also known as maritime law) governs all private legal matters involving events happening in the seas or in bodies of water that have multiple national jurisdictions.

BREAKING DOWN Admiralty Proceeding

In the United States, admiralty proceedings are handled by the U.S. federal district courts, but there may be state court issues involved with admiralty matters occurring within U.S. boundaries. In other countries, such as the United Kingdom and Singapore, admiralty courts are a separate venue and jurisdiction from other courts. Much of admiralty law is grounded in English statutes and other conventions that have evolved over hundreds of years since the advent of shipping commerce. As an example, passengers of the Titanic bringing civil claims against the ship were heard in an admiralty proceeding.

Admiralty law consists of both domestic law on maritime activities and private international law governing the relationships between private parties operating or using ocean-going ships. While each legal jurisdiction usually has its own legislation governing maritime matters, the international nature of the topic and the need for uniformity has, since 1900, led to considerable international maritime law developments, including numerous multilateral treaties.

Admiralty proceedings typically deal with issues related marine commerce, marine navigation, salvage, maritime pollution, seafarers’ rights, and the carriage by sea of both passengers and goods. Admiralty law also covers land-based commercial activities that are maritime in character, such as marine insurance. As such, some lawyers reserve the term “admiralty law” for “wet law” (e.g. salvage, collisions, ship arrest, towage, liens, & limitation), and use “maritime law” only for “dry law” (e.g. carriage of goods & people, marine insurance, and the MLC).

History of Admiralty Proceedings

Admiralty proceedings have their roots in England, where maritime cases were tried in admiralty courts that were separate from the common law courts. When in an admiralty proceedings, federal courts operated according to distinct procedures and substantive law. Many traditional admiralty matters were proceedings in rem , meaning they involved claims, or libels, against vessels rather than against individuals.

Perhaps the most important difference between admiralty proceedings and common law courts was that admiralty judges conducted trials without juries and applied general maritime law. While the 1789 Act specified that district court jurisdiction would be "exclusive," the statute included a clause "saving to suitors the right of a common law remedy, where the common law is competent to give it." In practice, however, state courts took concurrent jurisdiction over many types of contract and tort cases involving maritime subjects.