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Home > Legal & Financial > Maritime law history

Maritime law history

A bit of history. Today we are going to focus in History and the importance of Maritime trade and regulation in the Balearics.. The first  and most important regulations on Maritime Law in the old Middle Age were the ones from France, (Rules de Oleron),  Venice, Genova and the Costums de la Mar or Llibre del Consulat de la Mar, done in Barcelona from the XIII century. The first dispositions in Maritime Law were adopted under Jaime the Conqueror I for the regulation of the Maritime Policy in the Aragon´s crown waters (Ordinationes reparai) and  Barcelona Navigation Act 1227.

Jaime I was born in Montpellier  in 1213 and died in Valencia in 1276 has an especial relevance in our Islands as  he was the one that conquered Mallorca in 1229, Valencia in 1232 and Ibiza in 1235. He was count of Barcelona, Sir of Montpellier and King of the Crown of Aragon (which constituted the territories of Valencia, Catalonia, Aragón in today’s Spain, and Rossellon in today’s France). He was keen on expanding the boundaries of his Kingdom overseas, and after conquering the islands of Mallorca and Ibiza, he enacted a set of maritime laws and rules in order to establish a suitable platform to trade with other territories such as Tunis, Morrocco and Egypt, where he exported rags and clothes to import back wool, leader, cereals and even slaves. He later on established two maritime transport lines, firstly, the eastern Mediterranean line, trading with Alexandria, Palestine and Byzantium; and, secondly, the western Mediterranean line, trading with the islands of Sardinia and Sicily. These trading relations turned out to be so intense and successful that his son, Pedro (to be Pedro “the Great”) married Constança of Sicily thus engrossing the territories of the Kingdom, in detriment of the French, also interested in the island.

This Pedro is the one who established in Barcelona the Maritime High Court called Consulatis Maris, which dealt with all kind of navigation and maritime trade disputes. The compilation of uses and court resolutions were first complied in the Costumes de la Mar and then in the Llibre del Consulate de la Mar and appeared in 1258. They were first issued in Catalan language and then translated into several languages including Latin.  The importance of the Llibre del Consolat de la Mar is because it is the very first code to include all maritime and navigation rulings and traditions from the ancient  Phoenicians, Greeks,  Romans, Byzantines, French, Italian and Aragóns or Catalans.  It was immediately adopted by all Mediterranean port authorities and maritime traders and seamen. In order to understand its relevance we can highlight that this compilation of all maritime rulings remained almost 300 years as unique European Maritime Code until the French Colbert Rulings from 1681.

Carlos Espinosa

Solicitor & Tax Adviser

+34 627 41 32 01