It is a government department formerly in charge of naval affairs in the United Kingdom (UK). The admiralty department presided over the Royal British Navy. Now, it is incorporated with the Ministry of Defense in the UK.
Admiralty deals with maritime questions and offenses in the sea and other navigable waters, and an Admiral is a general officer presiding over the department. Admiralty court has jurisdiction over naval laws in British naval affairs. Admiralty law is the system of law administered by the admiral department.
The Admiralty department was in command of the Royal Navy until 1964. The Royal Navy of Britain played a crucial role in expanding the British empire in the 17th and 18th centuries. It made the Admiralty one of the essential departments in the British Government.
The Admiralty board replaced the Admiralty after 1964. This board merged with the present-day Ministry of Defense in Britain. The title of Lord High Admiral of the United Kingdom was vested in 1964 to 2011 and was awarded to Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh by Queen Elizabeth. The titles of Vice-Admiral of the United Kingdom and a Rear-Admiral of the United Kingdom continue to exist in the UK government department as honorary office roles.
Real-World Example of Admiralty
The office of Lord High Admiral of England was first established in the 1400s. The presiding officer had operational control of the Royal Navy. All navy officers and maritime generals reported the High Admiral. This management style continued till the late 1800s.
The Lord High Admiral and the Admiralty and the Navy Board Commissioners exercised control over the military administration at sea. They were responsible for the conduct of naval wars. This administration structure was relatively inefficient due to improper coordination and lack of inter-dependency between the various stakeholders. In 1832, Sir James Graham abolished the navy board and merged all operations under the board of Admiralty.
The advent of steam in the 1860s triggered substantial structural changes and expansions in the admiralty branches. During this time, Britain expanded its horizons, and the world entered a colonial period. The Admiralty War Staff established in 1912 had a sole focus on naval expansions and strategic territorial captures. The structure remained until the department's abolishment in 1964—afterward, operation control of the system ceded to the Royal Navy and Ministry of Defense.
Significance of Admiralty
Admiralty law also referred to as Maritime Law, is the governing body of law dealing with naval and maritime issues. Admiralty law deals with domestic law on maritime activities, whereas sea law deals in public international law. The law of the sea governs navigational rights, coastal jurisdictions, and the naval relationships between nations. Over 150 countries worldwide have adopted the United Nations convention on the law of the sea.
Admiralty law covers navigation issues like marine commerce, maritime pollution, etc. The law also covers land-based transactional activities applicable on the sea, like marine insurance and accidental coverages. Since the 1990s, there have been several international maritime law developments that have brought about uniformity in the legislation of naval matters.
There is a separation between the term "admiralty law" and "maritime law" in the legal world. Admiralty law governs "wet law" cases like ship collisions, ship arrest, pirate attacks, etc. On the other hand, Maritime Law covers "dry law" cases like marine insurance, carriage of goods and people, etc.