A quick brief to the Maritime and Space Laws


The Maritime law also known as the law of the sea or the admiralty law is a distinct body of law that governs nautical activities such as shipping as well as private maritime disputes at navigable waters of the land. The origin of the maritime law can be traced all back to the times of ancient Egypt. During those times, ships were used to carry on transportation of goods and people along the Mediterranean Sea.

Consequently, there was a demand to formulate certain specific rules and regulations that could serve as the code of conduct during the trades to ensure fair and equitable exchange of goods and property among the merchants. This law was also needed to settle disputes that usually rose up as a result of internal conflicts as well as Trans-boundary conflicts at the international levels. As a result, during the periods of 900 and 300 B.C., a codified set of principles were established at the Island of Rhodes in Greece.

The codified law then governed seafaring in those areas, influenced the Romans and remained active for a very long period of time in the ancient era. It was during this period of time that consequently other European maritime laws emerged to shape up the modern English laws. Some of the European laws that shaped the English law included the Rolls of Oleron and the Consulate of the sea among others.

Till then, other international laws evolved and this resulted in the demand of maritime laws at the domestic levels in coastal area territories of nations including India. 

Besides, The Space law refers to a set of laws, principles, rules and regulations which governs space related activities encompassing activities such as space explorations, aircraft activities and any other use of the space at both the domestic and international arena.

The inception of the space law can be dated back in the 1960s where legal frameworks governing space activities were established through a series of treaties and consequently the focus in the space governance shifted from local government space activities to commercial space activities. The treaties and agreements that formed part of the space law include the Outer Space Treaty, the Rescue Agreement, and the Registration Agreement, the Moon agreement as well as the Liability Agreement among others. 


In a common parlance, admiralty law refers to a body of laws that regulate maritime activities such as matters to do with delays in delivery, damage of ships and lost packages among other disputes. Maritime laws are greatly influenced by international customs and practices which is quite obvious due to the nature of similarities in the subject matters that are being governed.

In smaller heights, domestic laws at other sources of inland water bodies are as well incorporated under the maritime law meanwhile predominantly the laws at the seas are highly recognized to be the most appropriate maritime laws around the globe. 

As understood earlier, Maritime law originated from the Rhodian Sea laws back in the early years of the ancient  Egyptian trade activities. The Greek, Phoenicians and the Egyptians were dominant in the trade at the Mediterranean Sea and due certain unhealthy trade activities witnessed, their came a need to establish the a set of rules and regulations and thus the customs at the maritime laws such as peaceful trespass, fair and free maritime navigation and transportation of trading goods and services by registered merchants were adopted.

The Rhodes during that period had absolute control in the recognition of the laws, dictating the laws and punishing the criminals involved in navigations and other maritime activities in the Mediterranean Sea. 

Consulate of the Sea 

The consulate of the sea is an English translation of the Italian phrase “Consolato Del Mare”. It is considered to be one of the oldest forms of the maritime laws as codes prepared in Barcelona and served a great purpose in regulating the activities at the seas. During this time, the maritime laws were not state legislations but rather customary practices that were recognized and accepted by the traders along the seas and so the consulate of the sea.

This was a compilation of the acceptable practices along the seas which included the ownership of ships at the coast, payment of wages of seamen, duties and roles of the captains and the acceptable goods that could be traded along the seas. The modern legislation later came up as a result of the emergence of the nations and engulfed the seas within their domains of activities. 

Early European Codes 

As time passed on, trade and commerce at the Mediterranean sea expanded in the north and west sides which led to the development of sea codes in the northern European ports including the Laws of Wisby at Baltic Port and Laws of Oleron at the French Island.

All these are believed to be inspired by the consulate of the sea. All these were commonly characterized by the uniform protocols and procedures established. The uniform codes were believed due to the easily relatable activities conducted at the different seas and ports such as trade and navigation which necessitated commonalities in the codes altogether. 


The existence of the formal maritime laws is traced back in the 1897 when a group of lawyers as well as commercial men initiated the idea of establishing the Comite Maritime International (CMI)[1] and the National Maritime Law Associations. The International Maritime Committee encouraged uniformity in the codes in the various ports and subsequently, the same reasoning was adopted by the Hague Rules and the United Nations. 

Today, several modern laws apply to maritime laws around the globe including the United Nations Convention on the Laws of the Sea (UNCLOS) as a major set principle. Today Maritime disputes are settled in the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA) and the International Court of Justice (ICJ) among others. 


The history of maritime law in India dates back over hundreds of years ago. It is clear that just like other nations, the maritime laws in India gradually evolved and till its codification stage today. During the Harappan civilizations in India, traders along the seas came from different parts of the world including the Britishers and till date, the maritime laws in India is considered to have been greatly influence by the activities of the Britishers who came to the subcontinent as traders and took part actively in the navigation and trades along the coasts.  


The space law also known as the Law of The Outer Space is a developing field of law in the modern world which governs all activities of the outer space by regulating the usage of the objects in the celestial bodies for private or state advantages. It encompasses both international and domestic space laws in regulating the exploration and exploitation of outer space.

The origin of the space law is traced back to the 1967 Treaty of Outer Space. Till then, several conventions and agreements have been established to govern the Outer Space in pursuit of Sustainable Development Goals in the global arena. There are five basic space-specific treaties that aids the implementation of the space laws around the world per se and they include: 

The Outer Space Treaty of 1967 

This treaty vitally sets the constitutive basis for the exploration of all space related activities and the use of outer space. This is considered the broadest treaty ever regulating outer space exploration and all its related activities comprising over 105 ratifications and over 25 signatures altogether. The Outer Space Treaty is the basis for all other treaties within this domain. 

The Rescue and Return Agreement of 1968 

This agreement provides for the rescue and return of astronauts in space-related activities and the return of space objects to their launching authorities to avoid space pollution and catering for the safety of the astronauts in space. 

It comprises over 95 ratifications and over 24 signatures altogether. 

The Liability Convention of 1972 

This convention targets the authorities responsible for launching of space objects for the potential damages it shall cause to the natural space. It further defines the circumstances in which a launching state is liable and provides the distinctions in terms of the liabilities in situations where multiple states launch their objects in space accordingly.

It has over 94 ratifications and over 20 signatures till date. This convention provides a one-year time period for launching of cases regarding space damages and provides for the formation of an ad hoc claims commission to settle disputes between two or more states. 

Registration Convention of 1975 

This convention makes mandatory the registration of all space objects by the launching states or authorities taking such a responsibility. It is a regulation having over 63 ratifications and over 4 signatures till date. It establishes that such space objects which are not registered shall not be operated and make such acts illegal. 

The Moon Agreement of 1979 

The moon agreement is a very important part of the laws of space. It has over 18 ratifications and over 4 signatures accordingly till date. Among other states parties to the moon agreement is Australia. The moon agreement does not only cover the moon exploration but also other celestial body altogether. This agreement further establishes the space as the ‘Province of Humanity’ and encourages the equitable usage of the space and other celestial bodies.

The moon agreement is incorporated in several articles of the Outer Space Treaty such as Article I[2]which describes the exploration of the Outer Space and the Province of Humanity, Article II[3]which provides that no state shall claim sovereignty over any part of the space and Article IV3 which limits states from the usage of all forms of military activities on the moon and all other celestial bodies. 


The maritime and Space law plays very essential importance in the governance of the activities involving the usage of the seas as well as the Outer Space. The establishment of these sets of law are aimed at reducing the rapid depletion of the natural resources especially the large water bodies and the rich outer space to cater for the future generations (Upholding the role of the Sustainable Development Goals) altogether.

Maritime laws regulates several activities at the sea such as trade and commerce, navigation, fishing, ensuring environmental protection as well as maintaining maritime boundaries. The Outer Space Law on the other hand regulates the use of the space, minerals in the moon and other celestial bodies.  


Name: Charles Anyama Kalisto. 

Course: BA.LLB (HONS) – 3rd Year

Institute: Marwadi University. 

[1] A non-governmental organization, not-for-profit international organization established in Antwerp in 1897 whose object was to contribute to the unification of all maritime laws in all its aspects.  

[2] That outer space including the moon and other celestial bodies shall be free for exploration and use by all states without discrimination of any kind, on the basis of equality and in accordance with international law, and there shall be free to all areas of celestial bodies. 3 That outer space including the moon and other celestial bodies is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means. 

[3] That, the moon and other celestial bodies shall be used by all states parties to the treaty exclusively for peaceful purposes. The establishment of military bases, installations and fortifications, the testing of any type of weapons and the conduct of military maneuvers on celestial bodies shall be forbidden. 

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