SOLAS Grain SOLAS Dangerous Goods ISM STCW Athens Conv.
  Tonnage Rules        


Legislative Requirements



Introduction to Maritime Law

Maritime law may be roughly divided into two parts the commercial part and the operational part.

When dealing with commercial maritime law most of the law that has been embodied is old customary law – that is law that has been followed through usage over a period of time.

These laws were framed maybe a century or two ago by commercial trading houses and Lloyds in their agreement for trade and carriage of goods. Newer versions always are incorporated in them, these are frequently employed in the bills of lading and the clauses may vary from one bill of lading to the other.

However statute law is more rigid and has been evolved for principally safety of the persons employed on the ships – further the marine environment has been added to that list.

A broad division may be made as – statute law – harm to humans on the ship (today inclusion of marine life).

Most of the statute laws are agreed upon through the conventions between international member states. The first of the convention appeared over a century ago and dealt with overloading of ships and towards the collision between ships – both arose over excessive human life being lost.

The following extract – the preamble to the UNCLOS, shows as to why the conventions are agreed upon:

Begin extract

The States Parties to this Convention,

Prompted by the desire to settle, in a spirit of mutual understanding and co-operation, all issues relating to the law of the sea and aware of the historic significance of this Convention as an important contribution to the maintenance of peace, justice and progress for all the peoples of the world,

 Noting that developments since the United Nations Conferences on the Law of the Sea held at Geneva in 1958 and 1960 have accentuated the need for a new and generally acceptable Convention on the law of the sea,

Conscious that the problems of ocean space are closely interrelated and need to be considered as a whole,

Recognising the desirability of establishing, through this Convention, with due regard for the sovereignty of all States, a legal order for the seas and oceans which will facilitate international communication and will promote the peaceful uses of the seas and oceans, the equitable and efficient utilization of their resources, the conservation of their living resources and the study, protection and preservation of the marine environment,

Bearing in mind that the achievement of these goals will contribute to the realization of a just and equitable international economic order which takes into account the interests and needs of mankind as a whole and, in particular, the special interests and needs of developing countries, whether coastal or land-locked,

Desiring by this Convention to develop the principles embodied in resolution 2749 (XXV) of 17 December 1970 in which the General Assembly of the United Nations solemnly declared inter alia that the area of the sea-bed and ocean floor and the subsoil thereof, beyond the limits of national jurisdiction, as well as its resources, are the common heritage of mankind, the exploration and exploitation of which shall be carried out for the benefit of mankind as a whole, irrespective of the geographical location of States,

Believing that the codification and progressive development of the law of the sea achieved in this Convention will contribute to the strengthening of peace, security, co-operation and friendly relations among all nations in conformity with the principles of justice and equal rights and will promote the economic and social advancement of all peoples of the world, in accordance with the Purposes and Principles of the United Nations as set forth in the Charter,

Affirming that matters not regulated by this Convention continue to be governed by the rules and principles of general international law,
Have agreed as follows:

End extract


The following header shows how a Convention is adopted as a National Law in a state. In this case the Australian Parliament has enacted the IBC as a law in Australia.


Begin Header



Select Documents on International Affairs No. 31 Volume II (1983) 2. page 105

Amendments to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea of 1 November 1974: International Code for the Construction and Equipment of Ships carrying Dangerous Chemicals in Bulk

(London, 17 June 1983)

Australian Government Publishing Service


© Commonwealth of Australia 2000


End Header

In this law the conventions have been referenced to:


Begin Extract:


NO.44 OF 1958

[30th October, 1958]

An Act to foster the development and ensure the efficient maintenance of an Indian mercantile marine in a manner best suited to seven the national interests and for that purpose to established a National Shipping Board and a Shipping Development Fund, to provide for the registration of Indian ships and generally to amend and consolidate the law relating to merchant shipping.

Be it enacted by Parliament in the Ninth Year of the Republic of India as follows:-



 1.Short title and commencement.- (1) This Act may be called the Merchant Shipping Act, 1958.

3.Definitions.- In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires,-

(3) ‘collision regulations” means the regulations made under section 285 for the prevention of collisions at sea;

(5) “Country to which the Load Line Convention applies” means,-

(a) a country the Government of which has been declared or is deemed to have been declared under section 283 to have accepted the Load Line Convention and has not been so declared to have denounced that Convention;

(b) a country to which it has been so declared that the Load Line Convention has been applied under the provisions of article twenty-one thereof, not being a country to which it has been so declared that that Convention has ceased to apply under the provisions of that article;

(20) “Load Line Convention” means the Convention signed in London on the 5th day of July, 1930, for promoting safety of life and property at sea, as amended from time to time;

(37) “Safety Convention” means the Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea signed in London on the 10th day of June 1949, as amended from time to time;

End of extract.


Since most of the coastal states and most of the landlocked states indulging in global trading and shipping are members of the UN, therefore it is also a case where these countries are also party to the various conventions that are set up by the UN as separate bodies.

An International convention once set up by the UN goes into the specific matter on which it has to deliberate, and after coming to a conclusion taking into account the opinion from the various member states and the specialists in the field come out with the final draft which is presented at the conference.

The member states are represented by their official representatives and they put down their countries as having been witnesses to the final passing of the conference,

However this is just that the convention is accepted. The representative’s take the copies of the conventions and the convention again are scrutinized by the member stets experts in the field as well as by legal and financial experts.

Since the adoption could have meant a variety of expenditure.

Once satisfied about the contents of the convention the member state, enacts an act of parliament which may give reference to the convention or may publish the entire convention as an act of parliament.

Thus this convention now becomes the low of the land in that member state. The information is passed on to the UN body and the member state thus ratifies the convention.

Regarding disagreement on the clauses to the convention the member state informs the UN body about its reservations. If many such reservations come in then the UN body may ask for an overall look again in the convention.

Other repealing measures are as stated below which is set out in the convention document itself.

A sample of an international convention: Please read the lines in bold. Wherein a state is allowed the pleasure of agreeing to the local unions requirement – which may be contrary to the convention – but would be enhanced from those of the convention.

Another part refers to the repealing of the law/ convention by a member state after a period of 10 years from the date of ratification.

Begin extract

ILO Convention (No. 180) concerning Seafarers’ Hours of Work and the Manning of Ships (Geneva, 22 October 1996)


HAVING BEEN CONVENED at Geneva by the Governing Body of the International Labour Office, and having met in its Eighty-fourth Session on 8 October 1996, and,

NOTING the provisions of the Merchant Shipping (Minimum Standards) Convention, 1976 and the Protocol of 1996 thereto; and the Labour Inspection (Seafarers) Convention, 1996, and

RECALLING the relevant provisions of the following instruments of the International Maritime Organization: International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, 1974, as amended, the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers, 1978, as amended in 1995, Assembly resolution A481(XII)(1981) on Principles of Safe Manning, Assembly resolution A741(18)(1993) on the International Code for the Safe Operation of Ships and for Pollution Prevention (International Safety Management (ISM) Code), and Assembly resolution A772(18)(1993) on Fatigue Factors in Manning and Safety, and

RECALLING the entry into force of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, 1982, on 16 November 1994, and

HAVING DECIDED upon the adoption of certain proposals with regard to the revision of the Wages, Hours of Work and Manning (Sea) Convention (Revised), 1958, and the Wages, Hours of Work and Manning (Sea) Recommendation, 1958, which is the second item of the agenda of the session, and

HAVING DETERMINED that these proposals shall take the form of an international Convention;

ADOPTS , this twenty-second day day of October of the year one thousand nine hundred and ninety-six, the following Convention, which may be cited as the Seafarers’ Hours of Work and the Manning of Ships Convention, 1996:



Article 1

1. This Convention applies to every seagoing ship, whether publicly or privately owned, which is registered in the territory of any Member for which the Convention is in force and is ordinarily engaged in commercial maritime operations. For the purpose of this Convention, a ship that is on the register of two Members is deemed to be registered in the territory of the Member whose flag it flies.

Article 4

A Member which ratifies this Convention acknowledges that the normal working hours’ standard for seafarers, like that for other workers, shall be based on an eight-hour day with one day of rest per week and rest on public holidays. However, this shall not prevent the Member from having procedures to authorize or register a collective agreement which determines seafarers’ normal working hours on a basis no less favourable than this standard.

6. Nothing in paragraphs 1 and 2 shall prevent the Member from having national laws or regulations or a procedure for the competent authority to authorize or register collective agreements permitting exceptions to the limits set out. Such exceptions shall, as far as possible, follow the standards set out but may take account of more frequent or longer leave periods or the granting of compensatory leave for watchkeeping seafarers or seafarers working on board ships on short voyages.


1. This Convention shall be binding only upon those Members of the International Labour Organization whose ratifications have been registered with the Director-General of the International Labour Office.

2. This Convention shall come into force six months after the date on which the ratifications of five Members, three of which each have a least one million gross tonnage of shipping, have been registered with the Director-General of the International Labour Office.

3. Thereafter, this Convention shall come into force for any Member six months after the date on which its ratification has been registered.

Article 19

1. A Member which has ratified this Convention may denounce it after the expiration of ten years from the date on which the Convention first comes into force, by an act communicated to the Director-General of the International Labour Office for registration. Such denunciation shall not take effect until one year after the date on which it is registered.

Article 20

1. The Director-General of the International Labour Office shall notify all Members of the International Labour Organization of the registration of all ratifications and denunciations communicated by the Members of the Organization.

2. When the conditions provided for in Article 18, paragraph 2, above have been fulfilled, the Director-General shall draw the attention of the Members of the Organization to the date upon which the Convention shall come into force.

Article 21

The Director-General of the International Labour Office shall communicate to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, for registration in accordance with Article 102 of the Charter of the United Nations, full particulars of all ratifications and acts of denunciation registered by the Director-General in accordance with the provisions of the preceding Articles.

Article 23

1. Should the Conference adopt a new Convention revising this Convention in whole or in part, then, unless the new Convention otherwise provides-

(a) the ratification by a Member of the new revising Convention shall ipso jure involve the immediate denunciation of this Convention, notwithstanding the provisions of Article 19 above, if and when the new revising Convention shall have come into force;

(b) as from the date when the new revising Convention comes into force, this Convention shall cease to be open to ratification by the Members.

2. This Convention shall in any case remain in force in its actual form and content for those Members which have ratified it but have not ratified the revising Convention.

End extract

Maritime law is for worldwide trade. Trade is between different states and as such claims and such are always prevalent. If no common ground existed then the dispute would not be sorted out and the entire amicable trading pattern would come to a standstill. Thus conventions among member states are the pillars on which international trade stands.

Once a convention has been accepted it sets guideline at the very minimum the standards that are to be associated for trade.

However a convention is only a guideline it is not law of the land. To be so, the member state has to get this convention enacted as a law in its own country. Once this is done and the country trades with another, which has at its core law, a similar law based on the same convention, the trading claims and others proceed smoothly.

It must be remembered however that the law being the same the penalties and other fines may not be the same.

Also in addition to the law as per the convention the state may have other laws, which may not be similar to other state laws.

These conventions are all encompassing and take into view all suggestions and after clarifying the same are formulated. Thus the convention is universally accepted and thus no misunderstanding in the implementation occurs.

It becomes easier for member stets to trade knowing that the same convention is applicable. Any jurisdiction over other stets properties are set out in the convention itself – the only differing are the fines and the penalties which are left to the individual states discretion

The main organizations involved in making international law are:

The United Nations and the bodies those are set up for the required purpose.

These are:

The International Maritime Organization (IMO)

International Labour Organization (ILO)

Comite Maritime International (CMI)

Coastal State Jurisdiction

Criminal jurisdiction on board a foreign ship

 1. The criminal jurisdiction of the coastal State should not be exercised on board a foreign ship passing through the territorial sea to arrest any person or to conduct any investigation in connection with any crime committed on board the ship during its passage, save only in the following cases:

 (a) if the consequences of the crime extend to the coastal State;

 (b) if the crime is of a kind to disturb the peace of the country or the good order of the territorial sea;

 (c) if the assistance of the local authorities has been requested by the master of the ship or by a diplomatic agent or consular officer of the flag State; or

 (d) if such measures are necessary for the suppression of illicit traffic in narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances.

 2. The above provisions do not affect the right of the coastal State to take any steps authorized by its laws for the purpose of an arrest or  investigation on board a foreign ship passing through  the territorial sea after leaving internal waters.

 3. In the cases provided for in paragraphs 1 and 2, the coastal State shall, if the master so requests, notify a diplomatic agent or consular officer of the flag State before taking any steps, and shall facilitate contact between such agent or officer and the ship’s crew. In cases of emergency this notification may be communicated while the measures are being taken.

 4. In considering whether or in what manner an arrest should be made, the local authorities shall have due regard to the interests of navigation.

 5. The coastal State may not take any steps on board a foreign ship passing through the  territorial sea to arrest any person or to  conduct  any investigation in connection with any crime committed before the ship entered the territorial sea, if the ship, proceeding from a foreign port, is only passing through the territorial sea without entering internal waters.

Civil jurisdiction in relation to foreign ships

 1. The coastal State should not stop or divert a foreign ship passing through the territorial sea for the purpose of exercising civil jurisdiction in relation to a person on board the ship.

 2. The coastal State may not levy execution against or arrest the ship for the purpose of any civil proceedings, save only in respect of obligations or liabilities assumed or incurred by the ship itself in the course or for the purpose of its voyage through the waters of the coastal State.

 3. Paragraph 2 is without prejudice to the right of the coastal State, in accordance with its laws, to levy execution against or to arrest, for the purpose of any civil proceedings, a foreign ship lying in the territorial sea, or passing through the territorial sea after leaving
 internal waters.

Port State control on operational requirements

1 A ship when in a port of another Contracting Government is subject to control by officers duly authorized by such Government concerning operational requirements in respect of the safety of ships, when there are clear grounds for believing that the master or crew are not familiar with essential shipboard procedures relating to the safety of ships.

2 In the circumstances defined in paragraph 1 of this regulation, the Contracting Government carrying out the control shall take such steps as will ensure that the ship shall not sail until the situation has been brought to order in accordance with the requirements of the present Convention.

3 Procedures relating to the port State control prescribed in regulation I/19 shall apply to this regulation.

4 Nothing in the present regulation shall be construed to limit the rights and obligations of a Contracting Government carrying out control over operational requirements specifically provided for in the regulations.


(a) Every ship when in a port of another Contracting Government is subject to control by officers duly authorized by such Government in so far as this control is directed towards verifying that the certificates issued under regulation 12 or regulation 13 are valid.

(b) Such certificates, if valid, shall be accepted unless there are clear grounds for believing that the condition of the ship or of its equipment does not correspond substantially with the particulars of any of the certificates or that the ship and its equipment are not in compliance with the regulation.

(c) In the circumstances or where a certificate has expired or ceased to be valid, the officer carrying out the control shall take steps to ensure that the ship shall not sail until it can proceed to sea or leave the port for the purpose of proceeding to the appropriate repair yard without danger to the ship or persons on board.

(d) In the event of this control giving rise to an intervention of any kind, the officer carrying out the control shall forthwith inform, in writing, the Consul or, in his absence, the nearest diplomatic representative of the State whose flag the ship is entitled to fly of all the circumstances in which intervention was deemed necessary. In addition, nominated surveyors or recognized organizations responsible for the issue of the certificates shall also be notified. The facts concerning the intervention shall be reported to the Organization.

(e) The port State authority concerned shall notify all relevant information about the ship to the authorities of the next port of call, in addition to parties mentioned, if it is unable to take action as specified or if the ship has been allowed to proceed to the next port of call.

(f) When exercising control under this regulation all possible efforts shall be made to avoid a ship being unduly detained or delayed. If a ship is thereby unduly detained or delayed it shall be entitled to compensation for any loss or damage suffered.

The SOLAS Convention in its successive forms is generally regarded as the most important of all international treaties concerning the safety of merchant ships. The first version was adopted in 1914, in response to the Titanic disaster, the second in 1929, the third in 1948, the fourth in 1960 and the fifth in 1974.

The main objective of the SOLAS Convention is to specify minimum standards for the construction, equipment and operation of ships, compatible with their safety. Flag States are responsible for ensuring that ships under their flag comply with its requirements, and a number of certificates are prescribed in the Convention as proof that this has been done. Control provisions also allow Contracting Governments to inspect ships of other Contracting States if there are clear grounds for believing that the ship and its equipment do not substantially comply with the requirements of the Convention - this procedure is known as port State control. The current SOLAS Convention includes Articles setting out general obligations, amendment procedure and so on, followed by an Annex divided into 12 Chapters.

MARPOL – deals with the preservation of the marine environment


BEING CONSCIOUS of the need to preserve the human environment in general and the marine environment in particular,

RECOGNIZING that deliberate, negligent or accidental release of oil and other harmful substances from ships constitutes a serious source of pollution,

RECOGNIZING ALSO the importance of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution of the Sea by Oil, 1954, as being the first multilateral instrument to be concluded with the prime objective of protecting the environment, and appreciating the significant contribution which that Convention has made in preserving the seas and coastal environment from pollution,

DESIRING to achieve the complete elimination of intentional pollution of the marine environment by oil and other harmful substances and the minimization of accidental discharge of such substances,

CONSIDERING that this object may best be achieved by establishing rules not limited to oil pollution having a universal purport,

HAVE AGREED as follows:

STCW – deals with proper training and certification of the crew on board ships

RECOGNIZING the importance of establishing detailed mandatory standards of competence and other mandatory provisions necessary to ensure that all seafarers shall be properly educated and trained, adequately experienced, skilled and competent to perform their duties in a manner which provides for the safety of life and property at sea and the protection of the marine environment,

RECALLING that a large percentage of maritime casualties and pollution incidents are caused by human error,

APPRECIATING that one effective means of reducing the risks associated with human error in the operation of seagoing ships is to ensure that the highest practicable standards of training, certification and competence are maintained in respect of the seafarers who are employed on such ships,

DESIRING to achieve and maintain the highest practicable standards for the safety of life and property at sea and in port and for the protection of the environment,



With respect to ships entitled to fly the flag of a State which is not a Party to the Convention and the present Protocol, the Parties to the present Protocol shall apply the requirements of the Convention and the present Protocol as may be necessary to ensure that no more favourable treatment is given to such ships.

This means that whether or not a ship flies the flag of a signatory country or not, it shall be subject to all the conditions of as applicable under this convention. Thus a ship would not be permitted to enter a signatory country’s water s in a substandard condition and give an excuse that her government is not a signatory, hence she is outside the jurisdiction of complying with the conditions of this protocol.

Rules of convention to Law

Almost everything we do is governed by some set of rules. There are rules for games, for social clubs, for sports and for adults in the workplace. There are also rules imposed by morality and custom that play an important role in telling us what we should and should not do.

However, some rules—those made by the state or the courts—are called “laws”. Laws resemble morality because they are designed to control or alter our behaviour. But unlike rules of morality, laws are enforced by the courts; if you break a law—whether you like that law or not—you may be forced to pay a fine, pay damages, or go to prison.

Since individuals began to associate with other people—to live in society—laws have been the glue that has kept society together.

Laws regulating our business affairs help to ensure that people keep their promises. Laws against criminal conduct help to safeguard our personal property and our lives.

Even in a well-ordered society, people have disagreements and conflicts arise. The law must provide a way to resolve these disputes peacefully.

We need law, then, to ensure a safe and peaceful society in which individuals’ rights are respected.

The law is a set of rules for society, designed to protect basic rights and freedoms, and to treat everyone fairly. These rules can be divided into two basic categories: public law and private law.

Public Law

Public law deals with matters that affect society as a whole. It includes areas of the law that are known as criminal, constitutional and administrative law. These are the laws that deal with the relationship between the individual and the state, or among jurisdictions.

Private Law

Private law, on the other hand, deals with the relationships between individuals in society and is used primarily to settle private disputes. Private law deals with such matters as contracts, the rights and obligations of family members, and damage to one’s person or property caused by others. When one individual sues another over some private dispute, this is a matter for private law.

Private international law is the body of conventions, model laws, legal guides, and other documents and instruments that regulate private relationships across national borders. Private international law has a dualistic character, balancing international consensus with domestic recognition and implementation, as well as balancing sovereign actions with those of the private sector.

The law of the land which finally is enforcer for the conventions, ensures that the law (convention) is enforced by ensuring that before any certification is done the ship are surveyed, and after this only are they certified.

The surveys are as per the code or may be as per the law of that state however they cannot fall below the standard as set out in the convention.

As far as possible these details are to be inspected and then certified. These then become as authorized by the government of that state. And are seen as official documents.

The government agencies (may be various) are entrusted by the state to enforce the law/ convention in the nature of any violation – be it by way of area violation, pollution or by way of improper certification.

Thus for any violation a ship may be detained for a short period or for long. May be fined and personnel may be imprisoned.

The government agencies are also the keeper of all records since the state has to submit to the IMO all records regarding any detention and other cases of violation., including all dispensations granted.

From the above it may be observed that it is of utmost importance to study the national legislation that has been adopted in view to the conventions. Also any other rules and regulations that may have been enacted for maritime convenience.

Additionally the rules and regulations of the port state in which the ship arrives may have a set of different rules and regulations which the ship would have to observe. These set of rules and regulations are generally passed onto to the ship through either the pilot or the agent to the ship. Any notification may also be available from other sources. It is not mandatory for the ship to have received the notice of any extra rules and regulation through oversight of the agent or others, if the law has been published and informed to other places then it is supposed to have been informed to the ship. Thus the ship cannot say that since it has not received that it would assume it has not been informed and thus would fail to comply,

It is the duty of the ship through the company and the agents to keep abreast of all new laws and regulations that may affect the ship and the crew when arriving into any state to which the port belongs.