What is Maritime Law? How to become a maritime law practitioner? What are the career opportunities in India and abroad?
In this episode, Mr. Kingshuk Halder an LLM (Maritime Laws) graduate from the Gujarat Maritime University answers these questions and also explains in detail what all is included in this sector.
He has previously worked with Deloitte US India, for 3 years as a legal professional specializing in Corporate Laws, White Collar Crime Investigations, Regulatory Compliance, Commercial Contracts and Forensics.
And he has also completed his EGMP from IIM, Calcutta.
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Prasanna : Hey budding lawyers ! Welcome to the podcast and Today we have with us Kingshuk Halder.
Hi Kingshuk !
Kingshuk : Hi Prasanna how are you doing?
Prasanna : Good ! Good ! So , Kingshuk has worked with Deloitte US – India ( Hyderabad) for 3 years as a legal professional specialising in corporate laws , white collar investigations , regulatory compliance , commercial contracts and forensics . He has completed his LLM course in Maritime law from Gujarat Maritime University and also his EGMP from IIM Calcutta . So, In this episode we’ll talk about studying Maritime law in India and its future . Okay Kingshuk firstly I would like to know what urged you to leave your precious job and complete your studies in Maritime law .
Kingshuk : So , Hi Prasanna ! As you know I was employed with Deloitte for a period of 3 years and Deloitte is big for its audit and tax heavy firm where I was dealing with regulatory , forensic and contracts . Well, my financial side has always been my interest because I had corporate law specialisation in my graduation in the year 2016 when I graduated . I always had inherent interest in the areas of maritime and sea as a childhood interest but in India sadly I did not find any institution which provided a commercial side for the Maritime law . When I saw Gujarat Maritime University in the CLAT website for the very first time in 2019 under the affiliate section . I was the first batch of Gujarat Maritime University and it was a very new University back in 2019 when it started its course . So I decided to enroll there , saw the course structure and it intrigued me because of my interest and it was unconventional in nature so I decided to shift from the finance and regulatory side of practice to maybe something which is not practiced much or heard of in our country. Well yes this intrigued me basically because of my childhood interest.
Prasanna : ya exactly how many people do we know who are famous lawyers who practice maritime law full time . Forget about famous lawyers , we don’t have lawyers who practice maritime law in our contact or in our friend circle . So when I read about maritime law it’s very interesting and from what I know I think in Indian Navy there will be a legal department so when you get into that you study most about maritime law right ?
Kingshuk : No As you know about Indian Navy deals with alot of maritime security aspects of the laws of the maritime so they will of course deal with law of the sea but what I have been taught at Gujarat Maritime University is the commercial side of the maritime which is international trade , maritime and shipping which is basically shipping cargos and containers from one port to another. This is what we have been taught but that part of Indian Navy is particularly based on maritime security but this is something which is different of course we have been taught maritime security as well but they only deal with the certain parts of maritime law which is policy making part not the commercial aspect of it. That’s the major difference you will find in Indian navy lawyers doing and maybe what commercial maritime lawyers would be doing in admiralty court . I’ll come to that admiralty court .
Prasanna : yeah ! so, as you were talking about this can you explain more about it ? In your course what were your subjects and what are the subfields in this sector as you told Indian Navy deals with the security aspect and you deal with the commercial aspect so apart from these are there any sub sectors and if yes then what are those ?
Kingshuk : so , I was not from GNLU I’m from Gujarat Maritime University my campus was from GNLU . It’s a different university it is not affiliated to any University although we have a collaboration with Gujarat National law University and our transitory campus is there because we don’t have a campus as of now but of course our campus is being built in Gandhinagar . So , till the time we don’t have a permanent campus our transitory campus is in GNLU . So coming to your question about what are the aspects which can dealt into apart from maritime security and commercial aspects of maritime well , there can be a policy making part of it . For example, So there is a national Maritime foundation in New Delhi they hire maritime researchers who deal with policy aspects of maritime law . Well the policy aspect means they work as researchers . So there is a summit named as law the sea under United Nations convention 1992 by the International maritime organization . You must have heard of base line, contiguous zone , continental shelf . So all this comes under policy making. This is the Public International law I’m talking about . So basically if we talk about maritime it is divided into public and private international law . Now , public international law deals with the law of the sea aspects of it and you can include a bit of maritime security but private international law as you know is a contract between two private bodies. So , it always falls under the ambit of commercial maritime law but in public international law covers policy making and all these others aspects so when you bifurcate you have to always bifurcate in public and private international law then you can visualise the ambit of Maritime law broader and wider so that’s how it is.
Prasanna : So , basically two categories we can say as we have studied like the lawyers who have graduated they know that there is a compulsory subject named international law so they know the basic difference between public and private International law . So in public international law these security aspects will be covered and the National maritime foundation is a government body or private body ?
Kingshuk : It’s a government supported body by Indian Navy . They are supported by the ministry of defence of India . So they research that aspect as well like law of the sea , policy making.
Prasanna : So are the think tanks also providing data and analytics to the Indian Navy also ?
Kingshuk : yes they are a proper affiliated think tank which actually works for the betterment of the maritime security region and they do policy research on that . The Indian Navy fully supports their research . They rely on their research to an extent I can say .
Prasanna : okay ! This sounds very interesting. So in the private International law can you give some examples through which people can understand what types of matters are and how lawyers practice in this field .
Kingshuk : okay ! So Maritime law is separate from other civil and criminal disputes that lawyers are accustomed to . In the sense that for civil disputes there are hierarchy of courts, maybe district courts , High court and then supreme court or maybe even lesser for criminal court like magistrate court , session judge etc . So the hierarchy goes like this CPC and CrPC if you have read them . But when you come to maritime we do not have it in this fashion . For the Maritime jurisdiction the 2017 admiralty jurisdiction act that defines the powers of where the cases will lie in particular matter or commercial maritime matter so only a few designated High courts in the country specially the coastal High court have been given the power to hear admiralty disputes so if I consider Delhi High court or if I consider Allahabad High court or if I consider let see Rajasthan High court all these are landlocked states they do not have admiralty jurisdiction in their respective High courts whereas when we talk about Calcutta High court , Madras High court , Bombay High court ,Kerala High court Gujarat High court ,Orissa High court . Throughout the Indian coastline any State touching the sea will have an admiralty jurisdiction initially it was through the letters patent only given to the high court of Calcutta Bombay and Madras as you know they are presidency High courts. By the way maximum of the cases were dealt with Bombay High court because of their concentration of shipping power . Maximum of arrest matter used to be there in Bombay but after Admiralty jurisdiction act 2017 the majority of the cases were shifted from Bombay but still Bombay holds forth in Maritime matters but Calcutta also holds forth in the eastern part of the country . So , before the act it was Bombay in the western part and Calcutta in the eastern part of the country but after the act in the eastern part there are many high courts like Orissa High court including the west like Gujarat High court. What does this mean? Any ship / vessel which is disputed in the territorial limits let’s say Gujarat . So what do I mean by territorial limits ? Many of our viewers would have gone to coastal areas and beaches for vacations and site seeing so you can see the water touching the sand and recreation . So if you take the link there the base line starts and calculates 12 nautical miles that’s the territorial limit of the country . So basically territorial limit is that let’s say IPC section 300 you commit a murder and let’s say you ran away to 12 nautical miles of the country so the Indian police can come and catch even there till 12 nautical miles . In Maritime these limits matter beyond 12 to 24 is basically the contiguous zone after that starts the continental shelf and an exclusive economic zone and then the High sea till 200 nautical miles with exclusive economic Zone after that we have the high seas till 12 nautical miles all the laws apply intact as if it was applying to Indian territories . So 12 nautical miles would be approximately 20 to 21 km . In the sea also till 20 to 21 km it’s considered as India’s territory. You can’t run away 20 km and say that I’m safe because the Indian coast guard can apprehend and arrest you . So that’s how it is in general .
Prasanna : So , As you mentioned the vessel so I think the definition of the term vessel for example if we consider in the Indian navy submarine is there then there is an aircraft carrier than many other such also this will be included in a vessel right ?
Kingshuk : No ! We do not include Indian Navy in our conventions . Any kind of government owned vessels are not included in the definition of a vessel particularly for commercial aspects
No Indian Navy is included and Indian Navy is exempted from all these conventions like IMO by the United Nations we do not include government owned vessels . We deal with only in the private vessels here owned by private companies and cargo ships and boats have submersible so all this also includes rigs which can float some of the convention into rigs also can float that there are various definitions of vessels and various types of conventions that we do have and yes we do not include Indian Navy vessels because that is owned by ministry of defence.
Prasanna : If there are any disputes with respect to a government owned vessel then how is it resolved ?
Kingshuk : It depends if there is a dispute between government owned vessel and private owned vessel then it will be dealt by the concerned High court as it happened in the very famous case of INS Vidyagiri 2011 . It collided almost 5 nautical miles off the coast of Mumbai . There were like 3 naval vessels in the collision of 2 vessel MVC eagle and MVC knot . That was a very famous case that happened . It was a case involving multiple jurisdiction because of the vessel owners were different and it went to the high court of England and then obviously the Bombay High court also had to intervene and stuff so yes if there dispute involving a government vessel without any involvement of a private vessel so it will be dealt with separately because it is just government vessel there will be no convention applying at all or nothing at all but if there is a government owned vessel in conflict with the private owned vessel in the sense that which is included in the definition of vessel in that sense you will have the laws applying because it was seen that there was this collision regulation 1972 that was applied to the private owned vessels and opportunity of liability had to be given by the naval vessels to so in that sense if there is a involvement by a private owned vessel and government owned vessel and then then it **** will be applied on privately owned vessel but approachment of liability or blame you will pay be this much . If there is a government owned vessel the convention won’t be applied at all .Prasanna : If there is a dispute between a government owned vessel and another government owned vessel ?
Kingshuk : It won’t be applied .
Prasanna : so for example china is occupying **** times sri lanka ?
Kingshuk : Then it goes out of our ambit completely and it becomes an international diplomacy issue . Obviously Maritime law will apply but then the Indian Navy team will take over and they will see who violated whom and everything . So however these conventions cannot be applied .
Prasanna : Will the UN clause be applied here ?
Kingshuk : Basically the Un clause defines the zone and the sea . It doesn’t define anything about vessels . It defines only territories . It talks about the limits of the sea like where you can do fishing and where you can not . It is basically a constitution of the seas .
Prasanna : So right now you mentioned about where you can do fishing ? From what I know so there are many disputes going between Indian fishermen and srilankan fishermen . So this dispute does not involve vessel or anything and this issue is about territory so which jurisdiction this issue involved ?
Kingshuk : I’ll tell you something . If there is any issue regarding UN clause as you are saying so it generally goes to the international tribunal (IT clause ) and then it can also go for arbitration under International court of justice . That’s how the disputes mechanism are bifurcated . The international tribunal is preferred during such disputes. Basically UN clause covers state parties not private parties . When you talk about India and Sri Lanka and srilankan fishermen fishes in India’s contiguous zone or maybe exclusive economic zone India can place a objection because India’s exclusive economic zone is upto 200 nautical miles extendable upto 350 nautical miles . So India can raise an objection but it can against srilanka if they don’t agree and continue to fish it can’t take the dispute to IT clause . It’s between state parties .
Prasanna : If one wants to study Maritime law in India are there many institutes offering this course ?
Kingshuk : There are not many institutes that offer maritime law in the country . There are not even a handful of institutes . There is Gujarat Maritime University , Cochin institute of science and technology in Kerala , GNLU ( specialisation in Maritime law ) . When I was studying in my university there was no one opting for Maritime law . If there are no takers they don’t offer it . It’s very scattered . I heard that Indian Maritime University also offers this course but I heard it has stopped offering this course . If you don’t want to pursue a full fledged course on maritime law you can opt for a PG diploma in Maritime . I think NALSAR PG diploma distance learning programme in Maritime not PG degree in Maritime . Right now education in India regarding Maritime is developing which is why it is an endeavour by Gujarat Maritime board which is a fully on state government as you know the maximum India’s coastline lies in Gujarat is approximately 1,600 kilometres out of 7525 kilometres of coastline India has so it’s almost like 1/6th or 1/7th the coast is in Gujarat because I looked at as well so Gujarat Maritime board is one of the most efficient maritime board they thought that they’ll set up funds to build a Maritime University it is also a part of a ambitious project which was envisaged by the former chief minister of Gujarat and current prime minister of India Shri Narendra Damodar Das Modi . So what we currently have is a full-fledged LLM in Maritime law as well as an LLM at international trade law so it’s a part of a long vision that he had that the University offers a proper commercial maritime in LLM apart from that obviously it is still developing and the Indian structure is still developing in Maritime but of course if you go abroad you have lots of universities offering and reputed universities as wellNational University of Singapore university , university of Southampton if somebody can do it and it from world maritime University and International maritime law institute (IMLI ) and there are many universities in UK offering this course in Maritime law . Unfortunately we Indians have a long history of seafaring and we have one of the oldest ports in Lothal (Gujarat) but we have somehow neglected the commercial aspect of the maritime law . We have mostly focused on B Tech and marine engineering and many universities offer courses related to this but the scope of commercial aspect of maritime law is very thin . By the commercial aspect I mean MBA in logistics shipping , LLM is maritime or BBM is maritime, so the focus has always been on technical aspect more rather than commercial aspect.
Prasanna : yeah exactly because most of the trade goes through sea supply chains and still it is neglected then this is a very crucial point .
Kingshuk : Highlighting your point I would like to put some light on these figures so by volume when I talk about world trade because maritime is not only about India . It is global because it touches every sea and land . My LLM is very global rather than focusing on only one country . So conventions are for every nation so whichever country ratifies it it’s the country’s duty and obligation to follow that through local laws . So we know what is municipal law and International law . So that’s how it is . So now when we talk about world trade it’s approximately 90% by volume and 70 % to 75% goes to the sea . And when we talk 90% by volume we can imagine entire world trade happening via the seas and let me tell you while the coronavirus pandemic the shipping industry was affected but it was still working . It never stopped working because it cannot stop . Trade cannot stop between countries even flights were not in work but ships were still working . Our seafarers are continuously working day and night so that we can get our basic necessities and medicines . The imported products come from the ships .
Prasanna : So as you said that your study is quite global so do you mean that you can apply for jobs abroad with this degree ?
Kingshuk : yes certainly we can apply because how it happens is that that we have got the municipal laws like that the merchant shipping act and other act is for India . Basically maritime and private international law is all about contracts and it is global . All the conventions are not related to only a country , it is global . So Maritime law is basically a web of contracts with complexity. Lloyds is a very big history and are standardized all over the world. So it’s very global in nature .
Prasanna : So would you advise to pursue this course in India or abroad ?
Kingshuk : For any person who doesn’t want to go abroad and study for many reasons , studying in India can also be an option because India is also developing and we have a maritime vision 2030 recently introduced by the prime minister of India . We have maritime clusters coming up in India so India is becoming the new west because the 21st century belongs to Asia so when I talk about Asia I mainly focus on India . India has a strategic policy for one of the largest coast lines . India is going to become a superpower country in the next 20 to 30 years . When I talk about that I urge the youngsters to explore the trade in India that is left vacuum . People who can afford it can pursue the course abroad but I urge them to give back to our country because our country needs them .
Prasanna : okay Kingshuk! So people who are planning to take up this course after their LLB or lawyers who are practicing and want to switch their career to maritime so are there any good books you want to recommend ?
Kingshuk : yes so as you just mentioned that for lawyers who want to shift their career of from from some other area of law to let’s say maritime so that depends on which aspect of maritime do they want to delve into or they want to delve into research making or into the search policy making or o certain other academics or even litigation or evene commercial side . There are various forms of aspects maritime law is divided into . So that depends on your interest so if you have interest in policy making and Maritime security of course as you said Indian Navy reports and all these documentaries will help . Sometimes these documentaries are also released and you can also see these documentaries on YouTube. There are various documentaries about how India is actually a very powerful Navy in the world and what it is doing to counter China ? For commercial aspect one thing which is very important is reading conventions so first reading the conventions is like reading your Bible . If you want to understand sea and vessels, first you have to know what is sea and the technical terms and definitions. First read the UN clause and conventions and rules for the transport commercial aspect .
Prasanna : How do you stay updated about the development in this sector? Can you suggest any website or blogs which help you for this ?
Kingshuk : There are various websites related to maritime law like marineinsite.com , and other such websites which provide news related to the maritime world . So as I mentioned before, maritime is a global thing . Today the news you may know might not be fresh for you to tell tomorrow to friends & others . When one part of the world might be sleeping there might be a maritime accident on the other part of the world which you might not be aware of . Keeping updated in this field is a challenging aspect but it is very important to keep yourself updated in this industry . Even in covid times seafarers were stranded they were not allowed to disembark because of the corona virus and the contracts were pending . These types of news are very important . Normal search is good but websites also do help for keeping the update .
Prasanna : So I think study of international relations and Geopolitics will help a lot in Maritime law ?
Kingshuk : yes to an extent it will help but in the commercial aspect it won’t be helpful that much in your day to day practice . For example if you know what is happening in Iraq and Syria you will be able to spot dangerous spots and you will not allow your ship to those ports . If you are in maritime security and Navy then it is very important to have knowledge regarding these subjects .
Prasanna : For the private practitioner news related to international business may help right !
Kingshuk : yes it does !
Prasanna : so , if one plans to become a maritime lawyer who is a private practitioner what is the procedure ? Can you tell us step by step ? Obviously LLB is mandatory .
Kingshuk : There are many maritime practitioners in India who actually have done an LLB ( 3 year or 5 year ) from any University . An LLM is not mandatory but surely it does give you an edge because no university teaches you anything apart from UN conventions in LLB courses in a detailed manner . Even NLUs do not have much grounding regarding Maritime law apart from UN conventions on a non substantial basis . You can practice without LLM . You can in house counsel and if you want to practice in high court membership in All India bar council is mandatory .
Prasanna : Apart from all this there is no special requirement ?
Kingshuk : No ! there are no special requirements . It is just another branch of law where a lawyer can practice with a llb degree .
Prasanna : What are the other career opportunities in maritime law apart from litigation and in house counsel ?
Kingshuk : you can become an In House Counsel in shipping company or In House Counsel in logistics company and you can always work in law firms like other areas of law have law firms similarly maritime also has law firms . Certain law firms deal with normal or usual maritime and certain law firms do have maritime practice which is different from usual maritime with other areas . You can become a law firm practitioner , associate and senior associate based on your experience . So the maritime is just the same like other areas of law .
Prasanna : As you said, policy researcher is also one of the career options in Maritime law .
Kingshuk : yes absolutely !
Prasanna : What are the career opportunities abroad in international organisations as such ?
Kingshuk : Yes ! For that you can work with International maritime organization as a consultant and advisor that depends on how much experience you have and it will come only with tons of experience orelse they won’t allow you to work with IMO . There are few stalwartz say there are private practitioners who are called by the IMO to assist in drafting the convention in their huge team . You can advise them on matters related to the convention . You can stand a chance only if they invite you and if you are an exceptional practitioner you can apply there and crack it . Apart from working with International organisations opportunities abroad is tremendous. By abroad I mean sea ferring Nations especially London , Singapore , Dubai and Hongkong these are the hubs of maritime. Their law firms are much developed because they have not been neglecting maritime . They have been working for almost a century and they are settled over there . India is catching up too .
Prasanna : If you want to go abroad then you must have some experience in India .
Kingshuk : It actually depends you can crack after your LLM or if your CV is strong . Experience is not a bar but it does help.
Prasanna : yes ! If you have planned to work abroad it’s better to pursue LLM there abroad.
Kingshuk : yes that would open a lot of gateway and opportunities for you .
Prasanna : okay Kingshuk ! Coming to the last question please can you share your experience in your career till now which is very memorable to you ?
Kingshuk : Yes Prasanna certainly ! If I recall correctly I was employed with Deloitte India from 2016 to 2019 July so during that I had a very good memorable experience throughout my three years but some of incidents which I do recall from my previous work experience was that I was awarded approximately 7 times during my 3 years in Deloitte which included two times I received award from my client and I was also appointed as a subject matter expert so during my tenure there for a project . Well apart from that I also have completed my executive general management programme from IIM Calcutta MBA 2017 2018 now that was fully funded by my previous organisation which was Deloitte India office US . Well I was selected from the pool of candidates who have applied for this and the company has invested in my growth where it was a full 1 year course fully funded by them and yes that was my achievement where my performance was taken into consideration and I was selected from a large pool of candidates . So that’s one of my memorable experiences .
Prasanna : That’s great ! There are thousands of people working in Deloitte and hundreds would have applied and you have been selected among them . That’s quite an achievement and from IIM Calcutta you pursue your course which would have cost lakhs for a one year .
Kingshuk : yes certainly !
Prasanna : Thanks alot for sharing your experience & Thanks for the informative session .
Kingshuk : Thankyou Prasanna it was wonderful interacting with you .
Prasanna : sure Kingshuk ! After you start your practice as maritime lawyer we’ll surely have one more session .
Kingshuk : yes sure ! Will look forward to it !
Prasanna : Thank you so much for listening to this podcast. If you liked this episode then you must also check out other episodes available here and follow us so that you don’t miss out the new episodes.