Maritime Law Law and Legal Definition

Maritime law is the law that exclusively govern activities at sea or in any navigable waters. In the United States, federal courts have jurisdiction over maritime law. Under admiralty, the ship's flag determines the source of law. For example, a ship flying the American flag in the Persian Gulf would be subject to American admiralty law; and a ship flying a French flag in American waters will be subject to French admiralty law. This also applies to criminal law governing the ship's crew. But the ship flying the flag must have substantive contacts with the nation of its flag in order for the law of the flag to apply. American courts may refuse jurisdiction where it would involve applying the law of another country, although in general international law does seek uniformity in admiralty law.