Authored by Vidhi Tiwari and Suman Setty

When it comes to Maritime law, India has witnessed development through a glorious history and customs. The roots of Indian Maritime law are deeper in time for it established trade through sea-route with Asia and Middle East way before European claims of having the highest maritime power. However, the British Rule certainly casted an eclipse on the magnificent Indian Maritime law. This time brought discouragement in the shipping industry for prejudiced behaviour of the British, not to mention the laws which restricted shipping business for Indians to the most possible extent. The Best example would be the UK Merchant Shipping Act[1] which required Indian ships to be registered creating an impression of those being British ships.

Post-independence, the evolution of maritime law in India has been phenomenal if not extra-ordinary.[2] Considering the fact that India is a developing country and it is bound to have difficulty in management of resources, India is way ahead from other developing countries. India possesses a well-organized and coordinated merchant shipping fleet which facilitates the movement of trade through sea-routes. Only such organized fleet could make possible to have 90 percent of the total international trade through movement in sea directly or indirectly.

It is common practice that a ship irrespective of being within the territorial water boundaries of Indian waters or in international seas is always subject to large numbers of contracts and agreements and at a later stage this becomes a point of dispute between the parties.  Moreover, disputes can also be due to collision, wages and allowances of crew, obligations to ports and other governmental authorities, or even loss of life or personal injury caused by ship or occurring in connection with the voyage.[3] Maritime law in India, as prevalent is the other jurisdictions of the world, consist of wide range subject matters. Ship financing, maritime liens, carriage of goods by sea, marine insurance, laws of ownership, sale of ship, charters contract, registration of ships,  ship mortgages , custom and port laws are to name a few.[4] All the above mentioned subjects are covered under varied Indian legislations of India. Such legislations are based on the lines of colonial British legislations which were made applicable in India and is amended from time to time by the Indian Legislators. The origin of various Maritime legislations applicable in India can trace back to English Statutes on admiralty jurisdiction and judicial pronouncements given by English courts over foreign ships. It is important to analyse and learn about the principal legislations as it helps in better understanding of the adopted provisions and also in its interpretation and applicability.

[1] “Law Relating to Sea Carriage”,, [last visited May 16, 2019].

[2] Ibid.

[3]  “Codifying Maritime Laws in India”,, [last visited May 25, 2019].

[4] The internationa, l character of maritime law, although heavily indebted to general principles of international law is subject to local laws in India.

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