Maritime law is the law that deals with ships, shipping or other activities that take place on the oceans, seas, lakes or rivers. International maritime law commonly deals with regulations for international waterways, as national waterways often have their own laws. The United Nations is one governing body who oversees international maritime law through its agency called the International Maritime Organization. Here are some common ways in which international maritime law is broken.
Piracy is when a person or a group of people boards a ship that does not belong to them and attempts to steal goods from that ship. Piracy is often viewed as one of the most harmful and dangerous types of international crimes. This is because it is life-threatening for crew members and because there is a potential for large sums of money or valuable assets to be stolen.
2. Drug Trafficking
Illicit drug trafficking is another type of serious maritime crime. Illicit drug trafficking is when criminals attempt to use vessels to transport illicit drugs such as heroin or cocaine from point A to point B. Unfortunately, this crime is relatively common. Those found guilty trafficking drugs on the oceans can face severe consequences.
3. Smuggling Animals or Plants
The transport of both animals and plants is regulated by international maritime law. People who ignore these laws and try to transport certain animals from one place to another over the oceans can be in direct violation of maritime law. The smuggling of animals or plants is often not considered as serious a crime as illicit drug trafficking or piracy. However, major fines, and sometimes jail time, can be given to those who are found guilty of smuggling certain animals or plants.
4. Possession or Trafficking of Firearms or Weapons
Firearms are another type of item that there are strict regulations around in terms of possession and trafficking. According to international maritime law, only certain people and certain vessel types can carry firearms or weapons. The types of firearms that people are able to transport is also regulated. Firearms and weapons are not only a hazard if they fall into the wrong hands, but if a ship gets into an accident, they could explode and cause major damage. This is why there are such heavy regulations around these items.
5. Human Trafficking
Human trafficking is heinous crime that occasionally takes place on the seas. Human trafficking is when one person transports another person against their will, often for nefarious business purposes. Human trafficking is taken extremely seriously, and those convicted of it can face severe punishment.
6. Unauthorized Fishing or Sailing
In many waterways and areas around the world, a license is required to fish or to sail. However, this rule is often not complied with. When a person fishes or sails without authorization, they can be subject to punishment. This can include fishing for endangered species.
Pollution is also something that is highly regulated by international maritime law and that is illegal in many cases. It is for this reason that the oil giant BP is being forced to pay $20 billion in a settlement following its massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Other companies or individuals that are caught polluting the oceans can also be forced to pay massive fines or damages if they are found to be liable.
Crimes at sea are still crimes despite the fact that they take place on the ocean or on a waterway, versus taking place on land. Enforcing maritime law can be a challenge at times because the ocean is vast. However, things like satellites, drones and high-tech ships all help maritime law enforcement agencies to enforce maritime law.