The Scotia Case (USA vs. UK, 1871)

The Scotia Case (USA vs. UK, 1871)

Principle: Some customs need not to be ancient to become an International law rather if it is specified and accepted and also maintained by numbers of nations for the just, it may turn into a customary international law.

Brief fact: A dispute arose between the United States ship Berkshire and the British steamer Scotia. The Berkshire was struck by the Scotia because of the Berkshire’s failure to display coloured lights according to customary law of the sea

Issue: Was Berkshire in violation of customary International Law in failing to display colored lights?

Decision:  It was held that, when we find such rules of navigations in British law as well as 30 other national laws of commercial states including those shipping in Atlantic Ocean, we are required to regard them as laws of the sea which were in effect during this collision

Reasoning: This is not giving laws of any nation’s authority outside of their national sovereignty. It is not treating them as general maritime laws, but it is recognition of the historical fact that by common consent of mankind, these rules have been given as a general obligation

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Rayhanul Islam

Advocate Rayhanul Islam is the founder and Editor in Chief of Law Help BD. He is also a researcher. Critical thinking is his main focus. He is on a quest to bring positive change to the legal sector of Bangladesh. He promotes legal knowledge and human rights concept to the root level. e-mail:

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