Question asked by Jennifer:

Where did the maritime rule come from that you always go the aid of another mariner in trouble?


Mariners have aided each other in times of distress throughout history. For some, it was a way of life.

“These poor, plain men, dwellers upon the lonely sands …took their lives in their hands, and, at the most imminent risk crossed the most tumultuous sea…, and all for what? That others might live to see home and friends.”

This excerpt was taken from the Annual Report of the Operations of the United States Life-Saving Service, 1885. This government agency was established from private and local humanitarian efforts to save the lives of shipwrecked mariners and passengers. It was established in 1848 and after merging with the Revenue Cutter Service, it ultimately became the United States Coast Guard in 1915.

Life-saving stations were operated by volunteer crews usually during the timeframe when most shipwrecks were prominent, November to April. Stations were located in Texas, Cape Cod, the Outer Banks of North Carolina, along the Great Lakes and other locations.

In addition to the life-saving stations, various conventions, treaties, and laws refer to safety at sea.

Article 98 of the United Nations Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) states that ships’ masters have a duty to render assistance to persons in distress at sea without endangering their own ship, crew or passengers.

The International Convention for Safety of Life at Sea deals with maritime safety and was adopted in 1914.

Mariners have risked their lives to save others and have responded courageously in times of disaster at sea.

Answered by Sean Connaughton, US Maritime Administrator

Resources on the US Life Saving Service: