Prof. Martin Davies

speaker Prof. Martin Davies

It's easy enough to imagine a computer algorithm that will understand what the rules are and how to follow them, but what do you do if the other vessel isn't following the rules?

Martin Davies is the Admiralty Law Institute Professor of Maritime Law and the Director of the Maritime Law Center at Tulane Law School. Prior to joining Tulane in 2000, he taught at University of Melbourne, Australia. He has consulted in maritime law for 30 years and is presently engaged by an international law firm with a significant maritime practice. He serves on the Editorial Board of Lloyd’s Maritime and Commercial Law Quarterly and the Melbourne Journal of International Law. In 2019, he was elected as a Titulary Member to the Comité Maritime International (CMI) for his significant contributions to the field. As an international authority on admiralty law, he is frequently interviewed and quoted in news publications, including the Financial Times, Bloomberg, NPR, and CNN. Davies is the author or co-author of eight books on international trade and shipping and maritime laws. He has also authored hundreds of pieces published in prestigious journals, including the American Journal of Comparative Law and the Journal of International Maritime Law.

Talks by Prof. Martin Davies

related talk Titanic Nonliability
Titanic Nonliability

In the realm of maritime law, ships possess a unique legal characteristic: their total liability in the event of an accident is generally limited to the value of the ship post-incident. This principle, which can seem as impenetrable as the sea itself, is navigated by Professor Martin Davies of Tulane Law School, a renowned expert in maritime law. Davies explains the legal history and justification, real world tragedies and the impact of this limitation, and the cases and opinions that have shaped the law. 

The cornerstone of this discussion is the historical precedent set by laws like the Limitation of Liability Act of 1851. This statute (and others like it around the world) establish that a shipowner's financial responsibility in the aftermath of a disaster, generally cannot exceed the post-accident value of the ship and its cargo. This limitation aims to protect shipowners from crippling financial losses, thereby encouraging maritime commerce, but it also raises questions about justice and compensation for victims.

A stark illustration of this principle can be seen in the case of the RMS Titanic, as discussed by Professor Davies. After the Titanic sank in 1912, the liability of its owners was capped at the value of the remaining lifeboats. This effectively meant that the victims' families could only claim compensation up to this meager sum, starkly highlighting the potential harshness of maritime liability limits.

Professor Davies explores how this framework impacts not just historical incidents but also modern maritime disasters. From the duck boat sinking in 2018 to the fire aboard the "Conception" in 2019, these tragic events test the limits of liability laws and challenge the balance between protecting maritime enterprises and ensuring fair compensation for victims.

related talk Autonomous Ships
Autonomous Ships

Captains, Masters, Pilots and Software

Autonomous unmanned ships will be on the high seas in a few short years. Rolls-Royce demonstrated the world’s first fully autonomous ferry in 2018 navigating through an archipelago using sensors and artificial intelligence to avoid collisions and dock, all without human steering. And several companies in the Nordic countries, Japan, and South Korea are building autonomous bulk carriers that have the potential to upend the shipping industry The high seas and the maritime industry are regulated by a complex web of domestic and international regulations. At the international level, many of the conventions and protocols governing the seas were drafted in the 1970s-80s and premised on a crew and master being onboard the ship. How will these laws address the fully automated crewless ships of the near future? Professor Martin Davies, Director of Tulane Law's Maritime Law Center, explains the core interpretational issues, including collision liability, duties of the master of the ship, and pilotage.