The maritime law of the United States and United Kingdom enforces liability for common-law wrongs. Maritime torts include all illegal acts or direct injuries arising in connection with commerce and the wrongful taking of property. The law permits recovery only for actual damages. Maritime law also recognizes and enforces contracts and awards damages for failure to fulfill them.
The adjustment of the rights of the parties to a maritime venture is in accordance with the principles of 'General Average'. This pertains to apportioning of loss of cargo and is an important function of maritime courts. The doctrines pertaining to general average are among the most important of maritime law. The Admiralty Court of the United Kingdom has acquired jurisdiction by statute over crimes committed on the High Seas outside the territorial waters of the United Kingdom. Similar jurisdiction has been conferred by Congress on the U.S. Federal Courts. International agreements have been made to handle the problems of safety at sea, pollution control, salvage, rules for preventing collisions and coordination of shipping regulations.