Maritime Law is the system of Law, both substantive and procedural, which governs navigation and overseas commerce and offences relating to maritime trade. It would include issues relating to shipping, navigation, International waters, commerce, seamen, towage, wharves, piers and docks, insurance, maritime liens, canals, recreation and piracy. Many agreements have been entered into by nations over customs related to shipping. The Maritime law has developed on the basis of such agreed customs and usages. Though the maritime law is based on customs, it is influenced by Roman Civil Law to a great extent. During the middle ages, the collections of the rules of the sea such as Consolato del mare (consulate of the sea), The Laws of Oleron and the English Black Book of the Admiralty held sway. In England, there were special courts to administer the law under the High Court of Admiralty. The High Courts of Admiralty were abolished by the Judicature Act of 1873 and their functions were assigned to the High Court of Justice. The Constitution of the United States authorised the Federal Courts to adjudicate all cases of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction. This jurisdiction includes all maritime contracts, torts, offences and questions of prize. Under the Judiciary Act of 1789, parties may bring suits at common law in cases of collision at sea. Otherwise all maritime cases are adjudicated by Federal Courts.
All navigable waters come under the jurisdiction of the Federal Courts and many of the laws are governed by Federal statutes. Maritime Law is a part of Private International law which regulates the relationships between private entities operating vessels on the oceans. Maritime Law is differentiated from the law of the sea which is a body of public international law governing navigational rights, mineral rights, and jurisdiction over coastal waters and international law governing relationship between nations. The parts of the maritime law that deal with the problems arising on the sea during wartime and determine relations among nations like questions of belligerency and neutrality, is part of the proper international law.