Maritime Laws and The Possession of Firearms on Boats


September, 2017


guns on boats

Boats and Hoses

Admiralty Law or Maritime Law is a distinct body of law which governs any questions or offenses that might occur in domestic and international waters. The modern international maritime law is rooted in United Nations agreements, which themselves are largely made up of generally accepted rules of the sea that were created by tradition and customs over time.

But what are the legal implications on the subject of firearms, and self-defense weapons on a boat? Well to keep it simple, it’s the same laws of your country, state, or territory. Almost the same way as the laws of the land work, the maritime laws; in regards to firearms, is made for protection and the defense of the lives on the boat.

Maritime Defense

Carrying various firearms on your boat is strictly illegal, in the same fashion that having various firearms in your car is illegal. Although laws tend to change from state-to-state and country-to-country you can have a basic idea of what the maritime laws are that affect you by knowing what the actual land law of the land is.

As a general rule of thumb, the easiest way to avoid any legal problems with carrying a firearm on board a vessel does not have a firearm on a vessel. Still, some feel safer to have protection, especially if you are a long-distance sailor traveling through international waters where an attack from pirates is probable.

If you are in Florida waters and you have a gun license in Florida, you are good to go. If you cross into International Waters, that very same gun is now illegal to have on your boat.

Pirates on the high-seas

Pirates…? Yes, pirates. Even though maritime laws are strictly enforced in economically stable countries, there are countries that chose to focus their attention on other aspects of enforcing laws.

captain phillipsWhen using the term pirate most think of swashbucklers, swinging swords, and eye patches. But modern-day pirates are not like those seen in Disney movies. Many modern pirates have heavy-duty firepower, including automatic weapons, mortars and rocket propelled grenades.

Many pirate’s weapons are specialized to their geographical location. If monstrous cargo ships usually sail out of a port in a certain location, there is a chance the pirates will have weapons and equipment to force their commandeering on a big ship using boats that maneuver quickly, grappling hooks, and portable ladders. Most dangerous locations for these events to take place would be the waters of the South China Sea and Somalia.

Pirates in Action

finding your sea legsIn April of 2009 Somali pirates captured the MV Maersk Alabama and held the captive the captain of the ship for four days, this news shocked many, and the world of maritime laws was put into play. The United States navy and special forces were called in to rescue the ship’s captain and bring balance to the high-risk situation. Although the captain was saved, the pirates were killed in the process.

The Maersk Alabama was not equipped to handle a high-seas take over with no weapons for self-defense on board, the Somali pirates armed with automatic weapons were able to perform the first successful pirate seizure of a ship registered under the American flag since the early 19th century. According to the U.S Secretary of Defense, the four pirates were between the ages of 17 and 19, with no prior military or combat training.

gun possession international waters

Safety And Security

Not having a firearm on board your vessel was a risk the company and crew chose to take. Since this event shocked the world, there have been changes to maritime laws to protect the safety and security of lives onboard a boat.

Being well informed of the laws of a country and familiar with nautical locations would be the best way to determine if carrying a firearm on your boat travel is necessary. You don’t need a firearm to protect yourself, a rescue flare shot at an attackers face would do the trick if your life were in danger on the high-seas. And with so many tools used for the proper sport or recreation of fishing, a firearm would not be your only go-to for protection.
If safety and security are of utmost importance, it is best to educate yourself on the maritime laws for the procession of firearms on a boat.

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