Admiralty and Maritime powers refer to the federal government’s ability to pass laws that relate to the water systems of America. Congress is granted admiralty and maritime powers through Article 2 Section III of the Constitution.
In the case Southern Pacific Co. v. Jensen, 244 U.S. 205 (1917), the Supreme Court determined that the Necessary and Proper Clause grants to Congress complete and plenary power to fix and determine the maritime laws throughout the country.
Some of the most relevant laws passed using Congress’s admiralty and maritime powers include the Clean Water Act and the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, also known as the Jones Act, both of which are still influencing policy today.
[Last updated in June of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team]