Canadian Maritime Law, Admiralty Law and Shipping Law



Fisheries Law

Papers and Articles

Brad Caldwell

By Brad Caldwell




Westcoast Mariner July 2004


During the first week of June of this year, Vancouver was proud to host the 38th conference of the Comite Maritime International (the “CMI”).  The importance of this occasion was signified by the attendance of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada as its keynote speaker, along with appearances by both the chief justice of the Federal Court and the chief justice of the Federal Court of Appeal.  The conference was attended by 400 people coming from 44 different countries. 

 The CMI was founded in 1897 for the purpose of promoting the establishment of national associations of maritime law and to insure a structured relationship between such organizations.  These national organizations were to be composed of not only lawyers, but also of commercial and insurance interests. The purpose of these organizations was the promotion of uniformity of maritime law, with the first project being the international codification of the law relating to collisions at sea.  To its credit, the CMI was successful in having its collision and salvage conventions adopted in 1910 along with a good many others throughout the years including conventions concerning the carriage of goods by sea, maritime liens & mortgages and limitation of liability.  In more recent years, the United Nations has taken the lead in organizing many of the international conferences through such organizations as the International Maritime Organization (“IMO”) (concerned with primarily with safety and pollution), the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (“UNCITRAL”) and the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (“UNCITRAL”). However, despite these initiatives by these United Nations organizations, the CMI still responds to requests for input from these organizations and has prepared draft preliminary texts for a number of conventions including the 1994 International Convention on Maritime Liens and Mortgages and the draft International Convention  Relating to the Arrest of Sea-Going Ships.   

Canada’s representative to the CMI is the Canadian Maritime Law Association (“CMLA”). Like the CMI, the CMLA is composed of not only lawyers, but also representatives from shipping companies, insurers, banks, labour organizations for ships officers, and terminal operators.  As the Canadian representative to the CMI, the CMLA hosted the Vancouver conference.  The topics considered at the Vancouver Conference included modernization of the law respecting the carriage of goods by sea, general average (the monetary contribution required of ship owners and cargo in respect of expenditures incurred by the ship owner to preserve from peril the property involved in a common maritime adventure), places of refuge for ships in distress, pollution of the marine environment, marine insurance and criminal acts on the high seas. As a member of the CMLA insurance committee, I had the privilege of attending the conference and participating in the development of Canada’s position on insurance related issues.

 Accomplishments of the conference included a  new updated version of the rules of general average (Yorke Antwerp Rules, 2004) which parties can incorporate by reference into their contracts of carriage along with the creation of a draft instrument for the amendment of the rules regarding the carriage of goods by sea to be placed before UNCITRAL at its next meeting.  Further details will soon be available on the internet at  

Brad Caldwell is a Vancouver based lawyer and former fisherman and towboat worker whose practice is primarily devoted to fisheries, maritime and insurance matters.