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The principal commercial use for ships is the carriage of goods by sea. Various types of maritime contracts are used for the employment of the ship in, or in connection with, the carriage of goods. A traditional division is between the use of the charter-party and the bill of lading.
The charter-party begins and remains as a contract between the parties—the owner on the one hand and the charterer on the other.
The bill of lading is a commercial document integral to the sale, purchasing and financing of goods which acts as a means of transferring rights and liabilities of carriage, suit and ownership from seller to buyer of the goods irrespective of the initial relationship between the cargo owner and carrier.
It and carriage under it are regulated by domestic statute and international convention.
Maritime arbitration is a recognised branch of dispute resolution in international trade and commerce.
Maritime affairs to which consensually agreed dispute resolution may apply, arise from the diversity of activity concerning the affairs of the sea: the financing, building, sale and acquisition of ships, the deployment of ships, the carriage of goods by sea, the insurance of ships, cargo and other marine adventures and the other contractual relationships arising from the use of ships, e.g. salvage.
Historically, London and New York have been the dominant traditional centres of maritime arbitration; however, recently, Singapore and China have gone to significant lengths to develop arbitral systems and to encourage the maritime community to use their venues for the resolution of maritime disputes.
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