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Meet Lex Maritima – the first codification of universal Maritime Law Principles by CMI

Maritime law, a distinct body of law governing maritime questions and offenses, is deeply rooted in historical practices and modern international agreements..

Maritime law founded on globally accepted basic principles, common customs, and generally accepted contractual clauses have always played a crucial role in global trade, given that approximately 80-90% of the world’s trade is carried by sea..

Despite its importance, however, a codification of the universally accepted principles that govern maritime affairs has been missing..

Comité Maritime International (CMI), the leading global organization dedicated to the unification of maritime law, has taken a significant step forward to address this gap by consolidating these principles into a coherent and accessible framework termed “Lex Maritima“..

The CMI considers the Lex Maritima to be the first elaborate instrument in this space and the maritime equivalent of the Lex Mercatoria (Latin for Merchant Law), a set of commercial laws widely accepted across different jurisdictions since the medieval ages..

By providing a common foundation, the CMI Lex Maritima aims to harmonize maritime law practices globally, thereby enhancing legal certainty and predictability for maritime stakeholders..

This pioneering document is a comprehensive articulation of 5 rules and 25 principles principles of maritime law, aiming to provide clarity, facilitate education, and promote international uniformity in this specialized legal field..

Preliminary Rules and Definitions

    1. Rule 1 – Objective
      The primary goal of the CMI Lex Maritima is to elucidate the foundational principles of maritime law, promoting its specificities and contributing to international uniformity.. This clarity helps in better understanding and application of maritime law globally..
    2. Rule 2 – Definitions
      Key terms are defined to ensure consistency and clarity.. For example, ‘ship’ includes all types of seagoing vessels, and ‘positive maritime law’ encompasses the rules of public or private maritime law that apply to maritime matters..
    3. Rule 3 – Scope Ratione Navis
      These principles apply to all ships, with specific exceptions as outlined in the positive maritime law.. This ensures broad applicability while respecting particular legal nuances..
    4. Rule 4 – Status of Principles
      The principles are meant to supplement rather than override positive maritime law, providing a common international foundation that supports existing legal frameworks..
    5. Rule 5 – Application of Principles
      These principles should be applied in cases where positive maritime law refers to general principles of maritime law, or when parties to a contract incorporate them, ensuring their practical relevance and utility..

Sources of Maritime Law

    1. Principle 1 – Interpretation of Maritime Law
      This principle encourages uniform interpretation of maritime law, which facilitates global maritime shipping and trade.. It underscores the importance of these principles in interpreting positive maritime law..
    2. Principle 2 – Maritime Custom
      Maritime custom binds parties if they agree to it and should be applied by courts when mandated by positive maritime law.. This principle also recognizes widely accepted industry practices..

Ships

    1. Principle 3 – Identification, Nationality, and Flag
      Ships are identified by their name and home port and have the nationality of the State whose flag they fly, which must have a genuine link to the ship.. This principle is fundamental to maritime identity and jurisdiction..
    2. Principle 4 – The Law Governing Property Interests
      Property interests in ships and maritime mortgages are governed by the law of the State where the ship is registered, ensuring clear and consistent legal treatment..
    3. Principle 5 – Ownership and Management
      Ships may be owned by single or multiple part owners.. Part owners make decisions by majority vote and are liable in proportion to their shares.. This principle supports the common practice of ship co-ownership..

Maritime Responsibilities and Liabilities

    1. Principle 6 – Responsibilities of Shipowner and Ship Operator
      Shipowners and operators must comply with public law regulations to ensure safety and environmental protection, reflecting their critical role in maritime operations..
    2. Principle 7 – The Rules of the Road
      Ships must follow international navigation rules to prevent collisions and ensure maritime safety, highlighting the importance of adherence to established navigation protocols..
    3. Principle 8 – The Ship Master
      The ship master holds significant authority and responsibilities, including navigation, safety, and legal compliance, underscoring their pivotal role on board..
    4. Principle 9 – The Pilot
      While pilots provide navigation assistance, the ship master retains overall responsibility, ensuring clarity in the division of duties and liabilities..
    5. Principle 10 – Joint and Vicarious Liability of Shipowner and Ship Operator
      This principle establishes joint and vicarious liability for shipowners and operators, ensuring accountability for actions undertaken during the ship’s operation..
    6. Principle 11 – General Tonnage Limitation
      Shipowners can limit their liability for maritime claims based on the ship’s tonnage, in line with specific conditions set out in international conventions..
    7. Principle 12 – Pollution Liabilities
      Shipowners are liable for pollution damage caused by their vessels, adhering to international conventions and national laws aimed at environmental protection..

Maritime Contracts

    1. Principle 13 – Freedom of Maritime Contract
      Parties are free to enter into maritime contracts, provided they comply with mandatory international and national laws, ensuring flexibility within a regulated framework..
    2. Principle 14 – Bareboat Charterparty
      A bareboat charter involves hiring a ship without a crew, with the charterer assuming full control and responsibility, reflecting common maritime leasing practices..
    3. Principle 15 – Time Charterparty
      Under a time charter, the shipowner provides the crew and maintains the vessel, while the charterer directs its commercial use for a specified period..
    4. Principle 16 – Voyage Charterparty
      A voyage charter involves hiring a ship for a specific voyage, with the shipowner responsible for navigation and maintenance, common in cargo transportation..
    5. Principle 17 – Contract for the Carriage of Cargo
      This principle outlines the obligations of carriers and shippers under contracts for the carriage of goods by sea, ensuring clarity and accountability..
    6. Principle 18 – Contract for the Carriage of Passengers
      Carriers must ensure the safety and well-being of passengers, reflecting their duty of care in passenger transportation contracts..

Maritime Incidents

    1. Principle 19 – Collisions
      Responsibility for collisions is based on fault, governed by international rules that ensure fair apportionment of liability..
    2. Principle 20 – Salvage
      Salvage operations are governed by principles ensuring fair compensation for salvors who save lives or property at sea, encouraging such life-saving efforts..
    3. Principle 21 – General Average
      In maritime emergencies, general average principles allow for equitable sharing of losses among all parties involved in a voyage, promoting fairness in risk management..
    4. Principle 22 – Wreck Removal
      Shipowners are responsible for the removal of wrecks that pose hazards to navigation or the environment, ensuring safety and environmental protection..

Maritime Securities and Time Bars

    1. Principle 23 – Preferential Rights
      Certain maritime claims have preferential rights, ensuring the priority of claims such as crew wages and salvage, protecting vital interests..
    2. Principle 24 – Immobilisation of Ships
      Ships can be immobilized to secure maritime claims, following specific legal procedures that protect claimants’ interests..
    3. Principle 25 – Time Bars
      Maritime claims are subject to time bars, limiting the period within which legal actions can be initiated, promoting timely resolution of disputes..

Conclusion

The CMI Lex Maritima, through its 5 rules and 25 principles, offers a comprehensive framework for the uniform application and interpretation of maritime law..

These principles clarify the complexities of maritime law and aim to harmonize its practice globally, benefiting all stakeholders in the maritime industry..

For more detailed insights and updates, visit the Comité Maritime International (CMI)…


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Hariesh Manaadiar
Hariesh Manaadiarhttps://www.shippingandfreightresource.com
I am Hariesh Manaadiar, the Founder of Shipping and Freight Resource.. I have been in the dynamic shipping and freight industry for over three decades and have worked in several sectors.. I share my experiences and knowledge of the industry through this blog for those looking for help in the industry.. Stay subscribed for more free useful content about shipping, freight, maritime, logistics, supply chain and trade..

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