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CHAPTER 14 Admiralty jurisdiction

Law of Tug and Tow and Offshore Contracts

Page 573


Admiralty jurisdiction

Historical background

14.1 As has been seen above in Chapter 8, before the advent of the steam tug, towage, as an operation distinct from a towage service rendered to a vessel in distress in the context of salvage, was exceptionally rare. The Court of Admiralty had long exercised jurisdiction in salvage cases (see the magisterial analysis of the sources and origins of this jurisdiction given by Lord Esher MR in The Gas Float Whitton (No. 2) [1896] P 42 at p. 47 et seq.). However, with the development of towage as a separate field of marine operation, quite distinct from salvage, an important lacuna in the jurisdiction of court became apparent: the Admiralty Court had no jurisdiction to deal with ordinary towage cases. As Dr Lushington stated (in The Wataga (1856) Swa 165 at p. 167, adopted by the Court of Appeal in The Heinrich Bjorn (1885) 10 PD 48 at p. 52):

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