Environmental Norms in Maritime Law


Michael Tsimplis


£100, Edward Elgar Publishing



Professor Michael Tsimplis – a maritime law scholar and oceanographer – provides an overview of maritime law from the perspective of the environment.

Until now, maritime law has been influenced mainly by financial interests rather than environmental criteria. But that is quickly changing because of the environmental crisis. Therefore, it is useful to have a book that considers the environment as a primary factor when examining maritime law.

The book argues that the norms designed to ensure environmental protection and sustainability of maritime transport are not fit for purpose. Specifically, the author argues that the International Maritime Organization (IMO) is unable to cope with the environmental issues and the sustainable development of the shipping industry. But what makes Tsimplis’ work worthwhile is that he includes several detailed proposals to update the current maritime legal framework. He does this by examining whether ‘sustainable development’ is a true legal concept or just a policy. Every IMO treaty is then scrutinised for specific environmental norms. When he does not find any (which is most of the time), Tsimplis proposes changes.

The second part of the book examines how environmental law affects breaches of contract, arguing that the current legal framework focuses on the operation and commercial needs of the shipping industry, which is driven by private interests rather than environmental needs. He suggests that maritime liens be applied to all environmental claims and that shipowners who violate environmental protection should lose the right to limit their liability.

Tsimplis’ proposal of shifting the focus of maritime law from commercial to environmental is a sound theory that should be appreciated by scholars. However, whether this will be considered by the shipping industry remains to be seen. As international trade and shipping is only possible with the legal protections and limitation of liability, we would need to see what the P&I Clubs (the maritime insurances) will say about it.

Postgraduate students and legal scholars with an interest in the relationship between environment and maritime law would do well to read this monograph. But its use as a practical guide to maritime law is limited.


Carlo Corcione holds a PhD in maritime law and is a lawyer and manager specialising in trade, shipping and logistics