Maritime law, or some would say, shipping law is a very wide-ranging branch of the law which has within its far-reaching boundaries carriage of goods by sea and marine insurance. Carriage and marine insurance have been the subject of numerous texts, some specialist, some general books which cover these two "dry" aspects of maritime law. In composing this work, the authors felt that there was scope for further study of those other subjects that fall under the generic heading of "maritime law". There are those who might describe some of the subjects chosen for review in this book as falling under the title of admiralty law and they would probably be right. However, whatever description the reader may like to choose, we believe that the subjects we have selected will not only be of interest to the reader but informative and instructive also. We use the word "selected" advisedly, because we are conscious that we have not encompassed the entire balance of maritime law. To do so would have resulted in a book too bulky and cumbersome to be of convenience and useful as a reference for either students or practitioners in this modern, pressurised and over technical world of learning and practice.
Notwithstanding, we are confident that our treatment of these subjects is detailed, sufficiently analytical and comprehensive to satisfy the needs both of students and of those practising maritime law. Its appeal, we hope, will reach also to owners, charterers, operators, or brokers, all of whom go to make up the vibrant world of the shipping industry and international trade. We have concentrated on the cases, both ancient and recent, statutory laws, regulations and international conventions, weaving commentary around them so as to explain or highlight their significance in the "patchwork quilt" which makes up this absorbingly dynamic sub-branch of maritime law.
We agreed to divide the project roughly in half: Christopher Hill assuming responsibility for the composition of five chapters and Susan Hodges for the remainder. The subjects we have selected for inclusion in this book are customarily to be found in the syllabuses of maritime law courses at universities, colleges and other institutions worldwide where maritime studies are offered. There may be those who search in this book for a chapter on admiralty jurisdiction and cannot find it. It has been intentionally omitted. It is a subject of rapidly increasing complexity and is best treated in a specialist text. Those who do write general textbooks on a range of maritime law subjects have found that it is inclined to unbalance the book because of the sheer weight and complexity of the material which must be introduced into merely one chapter on this subject.
Pilotage too has been omitted from this work. It is a purely domestic subject (each country has its own home-grown laws applying to its own waters and waterways) and it is thought that foreign readers would gain little benefit from the subject as covered under UK law.
Maritime salvage is a perennially popular subject with both authors and readers. In what law textbook can you find such a human story of sheer raw courage to rival the salving of the San Demetrio in the early years of the Second World War? The chapter on towage, compared to the others, is somewhat lengthy. This is due to the exhaustive treatment given to the difficult question of when towage may become salvage - a matter of some practical importance. The authors firmly believe that a chapter should be devoted to priority of claims, an area of law of considerable significance that is clearly worthy of careful and systematic treatment. In this chapter, maritime liens, statutory liens (sometimes referred to as statutory rights in rem), possessory liens and other maritime claims, and their ranking in the order of priority are set out.
We discussed whether to include or exclude oil pollution as a subject. The arguments in favour of inclusion were that it invariably features in maritime law syllabuses, whether degree or professional, it is a highly topical claim action, as it stirs public emotions and it is of international concern. The argument to exclude was really limited to the fact that it there are comparatively few law cases on the subject to act as illustrations. ..............................