Main Features of English Maritime Courts

Local English courts developed procedures over time that were intended to promote maritime trade. Then, as now, merchants depended upon the ability to keep their ships moving and to minimize the amount of time that ships might be detained in port. They naturally preferred trading to ports where they could be assured of prompt resolutions of disputes, where they would not be exposed to arbitrary, local influences from a hometown jury, and where the rules of decision would be as close as possible to those used in other ports. English courts tended to have:

– trial by experienced maritime judges, rather than local lay juries who might not understand the difficulties of navigation or maritime commerce, or who might be more subject to local influences

– expedited trials and other procedures for resolving maritime disputes

– more flexible standards for evidence and taking or preserving testimony

– reference to established “sea codes” or other international standards

– procedures for obtaining security for claims by arresting vessels or attaching ships

– procedures for interim relief for stranded sailors.