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Who Enforces Maritime Laws?


Maritime laws are a category of laws and treaties that focus on the maritime businesses and nautical issues. These encompass a wide variety of items on the open water including shipping, offenses, and trafficking.

Maritime laws are mostly international, and the jurisdiction can be somewhat murky at times. Whether you are the victim of a crime or suffer an injury at sea, you may wonder who is responsible and how maritime laws are enforced. It is best to speak with an attorney any time you have an issue regarding an event that happens at sea.

An attorney can review the circumstances and help determine not only if you have a case, but also which government would oversee it.

Who Enforces Maritime Laws and How Do They Apply to New Orleans?

New Orleans is on the water, and with that comes a blurred line for jurisdiction. Maritime law and policy create confusion even in law enforcement because it is hard to determine at times who should be in charge.

If the waters are designated as U.S. property, then the U.S. Coast Guard would oversee monitoring and enforcing laws. International waters, however, are more complicated.

What Is International Waters?

International waters are those that are outside of the U.S. boundary. You do not see these boundary markers on the open sea. And more so, the jurisdiction can change depending on your proximity to another country. If you are sailing in international waters, the authority typically falls on your flag country – meaning the flag for the country you have on your boat. If you have an American flag on your ship, then the United States would have jurisdiction in international waters.

Other countries can navigate the waters and patrol as well, but jurisdiction for a crime or incident falls under the flag country or the closest shore when a boat does not fly their country’s flag.

The IMO’s Role

Through the United Nations (UN), the International Maritime Organization (IMO) issued conventions that help enforce laws through local coast guards of any country that is participating in the treaty. These laws will then govern insurance claims, civil matters, and crimes.

Maritime laws also oversee regulations, registrations, licensing, inspecting, contracts, and insurance policies.

171 states are members of IMO. Currently, the IMO carries the burden of ensuring ships follow all safety protocols that were created by the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS). SOLAS, which was formed in 1974, was established as a response to the sinking of the Titanic. It is one of the most important treaties to ensure the safety and security of ships.

What Specific Issues Does Maritime Law Address?

Maritime law’s extension is somewhat complicated and varies depending on the situation and location of the vessel or person at the time.

These laws typically encompass a variety of legal issues such as shipping, workers’ compensation, insurance, liens, mortgages, contracts, and activities. Sometimes, the maritime law extends onto land when the activities are related to sea activities directly.

Who Handles Maritime-Related Lawsuits

When a civil issue arises at sea or ashore and it falls under the purview of maritime law, you may wonder how you go about filing such a lawsuit – especially when the jurisdiction can be unclear.

Who Can File Maritime Lawsuits?

The Jones Act was created to protect maritime workers, but the workers who fall under the category of maritime workers are slim. The Jones Act does not cover everyone in the industry – only a specific few. Therefore, to file a lawsuit using this Act, you must spend a minimum of 30 percent of your employment on a vessel at sea. The ship must go into navigable waters. The ship does not, however, need to be moving – only capable of moving.

Reasons to File a Maritime Lawsuit

Not only do you need to qualify as a maritime worker, but you need a case that the Jones Act covers. Typically, workers file lawsuits under the Jones Act for:

  • injuries that occur due to oil or gas slip and falls.
  • faulty or poorly maintained equipment that leads to serious injuries.
  • direct assaults by coworkers, crew members, or the employer.
  • injuries that occur because the employer failed to provide adequate training.
  • a denial of maintenance by the employer or owner of the vessel.

The Difficulty of a Maritime Lawsuit – and Why You Need an Attorney

Filing a maritime lawsuit is complex. To have a lawsuit, you must have proof that you not only qualify under the Jones Act but that your injuries happened at work.

You should report injuries as soon as possible to avoid unnecessary delays in your claim. In addition to reporting the incident, you should complete an accident report. Be careful when filling out this report and do so clearly. You want to clarify every action or inaction that occurred so that the employer does not attempt to place the blame on you.

Lastly, you need to seek medical care right away. Delaying treatment could result in a denial of your claim – even if you have a legitimate work injury.

A maritime attorney is also necessary for these types of claims. An attorney not only helps gather evidence, but they will help you with claim forms, accident reports, and ensure you receive the maintenance and cure benefits you are entitled to under the Jones Act.

An experienced attorney can also help fight unnecessary denials or delays in your claim – ensuring you receive the compensation you need.

If you have been injured and your case falls under maritime law, contact Shlosman Law Firm for a free case evaluation. Schedule your appointment now at 504-826-9427.