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Study abroad : Subject Guides

Why study maritime law?

Love the sea? Love law? Maritime law combines these two together. Learn all about it here.

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What is maritime law?

Maritime law or otherwise known as marine law, is an area of law that specialises in issues that occur offshore. These include ocean policy, admiralty and maritime commerce. Not many realise that the rules governing the sea vary tremendously from those on land? From issues, such as accidents due to colliding fishing vessels, the discovery of sunken treasures, employees’ rights while working at sea, to conflicts arising from environmental issues. Maritime law covers them all. Did you know that maritime law is one of the oldest and most established types of law in the world?


Study route

As with most law degrees, the programmes available will differ depending on the country that you opt to study most countries such as in Singapore, UK and many others, law degrees are given out in the form of an LLB (Bachelor of Laws) and students will go on to take the national Bar or Law Society qualifying examinations in order to be able to practice as a lawyer. Sometimes a BA in Law (BL) or a BSc in Law is awarded instead. Bear in mind that some universities choose to differentiate between LLB and BA programmes, the former focuses exclusively on law while the latter allows students to take modules in other subjects. Graduate law degrees will have a greater focus on academic research and they are referred to as a PhD in Law, (JSD) Doctor or Juridical Science or Doctor of Laws. 

Meanwhile in places such as the US, Japan, Canada, Hong Kong and Australia, A J.D (Juris Doctor) is offered instead. In these countries, you will need to have a bachelor’s degree in a different discipline and then proceed to take up legal studies at the graduate level. A J.D takes three years to complete. Students are also presented with the option of earning a Master of Laws (LLM) in a chosen area of specialisation after completing their J.D. For lawyers who don’t possess a J.D, they can study a LLM which will allow them to practice in countries that require a JD. Prospective students who intend to study in the US are required to take the LSATs (Law School Admission Test) in order to gain admission into American law programmes.


Maritime law is more often taken at the postgraduate level, though there are a few institutions such as Plymouth University and University of Southampton that offer a bachelor’s degree or a Juris Doctor. Other universities offer joint-degree programmes such as Roger Williams University School of Law in Bristol’s Juris Doctor and Master’s in Marine Affairs with University of Rhode Island while Tulane University offers students a Juris Doctor Certificate of Specialisation in Maritime Law that students can pursue during their final two years of their law programmes. Tulane students can also join the Maritime Law Society and take trips to maritime industry locations.


Like most degrees, law programmes start with compulsory core courses, and more opportunities to choose law topics tailored to a particular career path later on. Teaching is conducted through a combination of lectures, seminars, group work, presentations, class debates and ‘mooting sessions’ – practical law training in a courtroom setting to help students master important legal skills such as research and analysis, public speaking and argument formation.


Some institutes provide their students with the opportunity to work pro bono (voluntary basis) with real-life clients, as a way to gain invaluable experience and gaining legal skills that will help when applying for positions upon graduation.


Otherwise, you will be able to specialise in Maritime Law at the postgraduate level. Many universities offer a LLM (Master’s) in Maritime Law and for most programmes, students will need to have a LLB in Law or a related degree such as in English, Political Sciences, History, Social Sciences, Economics or Business and it will be beneficial if those degrees covered a large legal component. A Master’s programme will primarily be assessed through written coursework, presentations, tests, projects and finally a dissertation.


Once you’ve completed your studies, you will need to pass the bar exam in order to be able to practice in the country that you intend to work in.


Modules covered

Similar to the way other law specialisations are studied, students taking the LLB in Maritime Law will be taught the fundamentals of law in their first year, such as introduction to legal techniques, the legal system, legal research, reasoning and literacy skills. In your second year, you will learn more about criminal law, securities law, contract law, legal system and research, property law, law of torts, criminal justice will be covered. In your third year, you will cover the remaining core modules like employment law, family law, health care law, equity and trusts, data protection law and international law and finally study maritime law subjects.


Maritime modules that you will learn:

  • Carriage of goods by sea

  • International trade law

  • Introduction to the international law of the sea

  • International commercial arbitration

  • Admiralty law

  • Marine insurance

  • Injured employee compensation

  • Marine pollution

  • Shipping contracts


Legal training

Many graduates opt to continue their legal training beyond the undergraduate level to advance their legal career. The specific type of legal training required will depend on the country that they’re practicing and the type of legal career that you aspire to. Often times this involves further study, examinations and practical legal training through formal work placements.


Skills needed

Ideal traits of a Maritime Lawyer include:

  • Analytical skills

  • Critical thinking skills

  • Articulate

  • Personable

  • Able to look at both the macro-level and micro-level of a problem

  • Independent

  • Team player



Placement opportunities

Quite a lot of universities today provide plenty of internship opportunities for their students. For example, City University of London LLM Maritime Law programme provides their students with opportunities to undertake a professional internship during the course of their programme to develop a broader understanding of the subject and how it is applied and taught in other parts of the world. Alternatively, you could also opt to seek independent internships on your own. The International Maritime Organisation are always looking for students to undertake research for their dissertation or as a means to further their own research.  To find out more information regarding the kinds of internship programmes that universities or college have, we suggest that you contact them directly. We highly recommend that students to complete at least one internship or placement before graduation to better your employment chances in a highly competitive job market. Internships and placements not only provide you with invaluable job experience, they also are the perfect platform to network with industry experts. Who knows, your internship might turn into a full-time job once you graduate!


Average salary of a maritime lawyer

Based on a report by the U.S Bureau of Labour Statistics (BLS), the average annual median salary for lawyers is $115,820.


Career path

As a Maritime lawyer, the kinds of cases that you will see are truly varied. They can range from injuries and working conditions at sea, cargo, shipping and commerce, any sort of illegal activity taking place at sea and covers both business and pleasure. This makes a maritime career not only exciting but also challenging.  Maritime law not only differ from the laws onshore, but depending on the flags that the ships fly, these cases will fall under the respective country’s maritime line.

You can find yourself one day arguing cases in court, another day drafting documents and the next week, you’re negotiating agreements and handling complaints about injuries or illnesses that are caused by seafaring vessels, and on another occasion, you’re looking into complaints about a company dumping toxic waste into the waters near where they live.


International in nature


Maritime lawyers need to be well-informed about both the laws on land and at sea. You will also be required to understand the different types of maritime legislation that each country practices. As mentioned previously, if the ship is flying a Japanese flag, in international waters, then the Japanese maritime law will be in effect. Since more often than not, most of the cases that you will be involved in will likely be international in nature, it will help tremendously if you picked up a foreign language or two during your semester breaks. Common languages that you could consider studying would be Chinese, Korean, Arabic, German, French, to name a few. Maritime lawyers are also expected to fully understand the minutiae and principles of maritime law as governed by the International Maritime organisation.



You can work in various sectors- with governmental agencies, non-governmental agencies, protection and indemnity clubs, local and international law firms, international maritime organisations, multinational corporations, private companies, finance, insurance, shipping, oil and gas, and the list goes on. You can opt to work on land in your very own or be based on a ship and see the world while you’re at it.


You can choose to work as a maritime lawyer on a freelance basis or as part of a firm. You can even become a consultant within any of these industries. Do you happen to have a passion for writing on top of your love for maritime law? Why not marry those two together? You can work as a reporter or journalist specialising in maritime cases.


Best places to study maritime law degree

University of Greenwich

Kuhne Logistics University (KLU)

The University of Nottingham

The Arctic University of Norway

Erasmus School of Law

University of Exeter


Aside from the universities listed above, these countries also boast strong maritime law programmes- Sweden, Canada, Germany, Korea, Japan, China, Singapore, and Ireland.


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