BOOK REVIEW - ADMIRALTY JURISDICTION (5th edition)
Professor of Commercial Law
Institute of International Shipping and Trade Law, Swansea University Law School
Damien J Cremean. ISBN 978 176002 238 9. lxv and 393 pp, plus 5 pp Bibliography and 33 pp Index. Hardback (496 pp). AUS$ 265.00.
Traditionally, legal textbooks written by common lawyers have tended to be of two kinds. The older variety, exemplified by such works as Smith’s Leading Cases or the older versions of Marsden’s Collisions at Sea, was impressionistic and of somewhat organic growth. The fact that at times it was slightly chaotic did not matter overmuch, since it was aimed at ease of use by practitioners, who quickly got to know where to find the comprehensive coverage of the bits of the law they used regularly. The more common type of book these days, associated more with academics, instead aims overwhelmingly at intellectual tidiness and bringing precise order and logic where previously confusion might have reigned.
Damien Cremean’s excellent Admiralty Jurisdiction, nearly 25 years old and now in its fifth edition, is a book very much in the first of these traditions, and is none the worse for that. This work started life as a straightforward, and very necessary, book on Australian Admiralty law once it had been liberated from its imperial and Anglocentric origins in 1988. But it has now expanded into a much more general multijurisdictional handbook taking in all the important common law legal systems. To Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and Hong Kong, the subjects of the fourth edition, are now added the further common law systems of Canada, India and England, and these are further supplemented by the mixed (and sometimes idiosyncratic) jurisdiction of South Africa.
The plan of the work remains very much as before. Admiralty Jurisdiction is ultimately Australian-based, as befits a work by someone who teaches in Brisbane, but with extensive excursuses dealing with the case law in, and the peculiarities of the legislation applicable to, the other jurisdictions. The coverage is divided into four chapters—a general overview of Admiralty jurisdiction, Admiralty and the court system, detailed coverage of the specific traditional heads of Admiralty jurisdiction, and the inevitable big section on practice and procedure. In terms of writing, the style is discursive, rather in the way of a lecture or webinar, going through the main cases and statutory provisions applicable in each place. In other words, what we have here is a very well-documented handbook for anyone tasked with carrying on or overseeing Admiralty litigation which is ongoing in any of the main common law jurisdictions.
The coverage is not only well written, but helpful and informative on a number of matters otherwise highly technical: for example, the vexed question of damage done by a ship (p.78 on), the burden of proof as to matters that go to the constitution of Admiralty jurisdiction (p.161 onwards), and what happens where Admiralty proceedings taking effect through arrest are stayed in favour of arbitration (p.185 on).
Your reviewer found refreshingly few inaccuracies in detail, though he did raise an eyebrow at the suggestion that the Admiralty action in rem has anything in common with the Roman actio in rem (highly unlikely, since they mean entirely different things) and that the County Court in England has any jurisdiction in Admiralty (it does not, even by consent).
More substantial criticisms were also gratifyingly few. The mini-disquisition on the Hague-Visby Rules might profitably be removed, since a book on Admiralty is not the ideal place for it, or for that matter likely to be used as a source of reference by a busy practitioner. Again, it is all very well to discuss, in the course of the coverage of maritime liens, the order of priority between them: but what the person arresting a vessel and having her sold really needs is a more general account of the priority of all proprietary claims against her, lien, non-lien and indeed non-Admiralty (for example, port authorities’ rights of retention). And, from an English reviewer, one more: references to the Old Country should be to England, not the UK. Scots Admiralty and arrestment law is separate, and at times different, from English.
Overall, however, this is an excellent book. Anyone dealing with Admiralty in Australia must buy it in its latest form. Lawyers wanting a guide as to such proceedings in common law countries, and those like academics merely interested in it, should consider themselves very strongly advised to do so. You will not regret it.