Legal Translation for Maritime Law

Legal Translators for Admiralty and Maritime Lawyers

We’ve blogged about legal translation services for maritime litigation. One of the most fascinating things about the law – in any country, particularly industrialized nations – is the source of the law’s authority. We all tend to go about our lives having implicitly signed onto the social contract that we are governed by the law of the place in which we reside. Yet, we often fail to consider precisely from where the authority, or the power, of that law comes from.

As you likely know, in the United States the supreme law of the land is the United States Constitution. That is the source of all federal law in this country. Thus, any federal law in our country derives its authority from the U.S. Constitution. Of course, that is why a law that runs afoul of the Constitution is null and void because it is “unconstitutional.”

Every state in the United States has its own form of constitution, thereby providing the source of authority for all state laws, and most every country in the world has some unifying document that provides a foundation for that nation-state’s legal system.

The question becomes, then, are there any rules on the high seas? Certainly, no nation-state can claim jurisdiction over the Atlantic Ocean, or the Pacific Ocean. Also, there is a general sense that being in international waters means that no rules apply. However, the answer to the question of whether there are rules on the high seas is yes; and the rules are governed by International Maritime Law.

Accordingly, in this blog, we will discuss the key things to know about international maritime law. Of course, if you practice in areas in which maritime law would be applicable, then you would benefit from the help of a legal translation service, given that most of maritime law is not originally in English. In that regard, we welcome you to call certified translators and interpreters at All Language Alliance, Inc. Our number is 303-470-9555, and we can help you translate legal and technical documents for your maritime law cases.

What is International Maritime Law?

Also known as admiralty law or the law of the sea, international maritime law is a set of laws, conventions, and treaties that govern the conduct of private maritime business and other matters, like settling shipping disputes or prosecuting offenses that occur in international waters.

From an American perspective, the concept of “international waters” is defined as a body of water outside of the boundaries of the United States. Typically, when sailing in international waters, the vessel will fall under the legal jurisdiction of either country of flag that the ship is flying or the nearest coastal country. Thus, if a vessel is flying an American flag, then generally you have the same rights in international waters as you would if you were on U.S. soil.

Who Enforces International Maritime Law?

When a vessel is in international waters, it can be difficult to discern precisely which rules apply. Thus, lawyers with a specialty in maritime law would need to help determine the appropriate jurisdiction. In the United States, for example, if a ship is in what is considered United States waters then the U.S. Coast Guard would be the authority to monitor and enforce any and all maritime matters.

What is the Source of Authority for International Maritime Law?

Although the laws of the country of flag that the ship is flying may control conduct on a particular ship, there is a need for rules to regulate the interaction of vessels from other countries that are traveling on international waters. Thus, the International Maritime Organization was created.

International Maritime Organization, often referred to as the IMO, was created by the United Nations in 1948. The International Maritime Organization provides a framework for the security of international shipping. It is made up of several conventions that are enforced by the navy and coast guard of the countries that have signed the treaty ratifying the IMO. Thus, the countries that are the members of the IMO, which are part of the developed world, provide the approval that gives the IMO its authority. The IMO has six official languages: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish.

What Does the International Maritime Organization Cover?

Maritime law covers:

• Insurance claims that involve ships and cargo;
• Registration, licensing, and inspection procedures of cargo and passenger ships;
• Civil matters between shipowners, seamen, and passengers;
• Prosecution of piracy.

While there are dozens of conventions on international maritime law, the International Maritime Organization views three particular conventions as its core principles:

The International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS);
The International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL); and
The International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW).

Interestingly, the first convention above – the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea – was created after the sinking of the Titanic (though not officially enacted until 1974). It is the most prominent of the conventions under the IMO to ensure the safety of merchant vessels.

Legal Translation Services are Vital for International Maritime Law

As you would expect, any maritime law case will inevitably involve legal documents, or technical nautical documents, that are in a foreign language. That is when you need to contact a professional legal translation service. Rather than relying on informal translation options, it will serve your practice well to have a legal translator on hand to provide reliable, accurate translations of multilingual legal and technical documents.

Accordingly, we welcome you to contact us at All Language Alliance, Inc. for more information. We will be able to provide an experienced translator and legal interpreter for any language or dialect you need. Email our legal translation service today to inquire about legal translation services from and into Chinese, Arabic, French, Russian, Spanish, and other languages.

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