With the ever increasing trend of globalization, the global shipping industry is increasingly important for supplying goods globally. Each an every day, an average person consumes products which were manufactured in another country or made from materials which were imported from somewhere else and manufactured locally.
The vast majority of commodities and consumer goods travel by ship to their destinations and naturally, whenever you drive your car you are consuming petrol which is derived from crude oil which is shipped around the world in oil tankers. During the late twentieth century, a large number of global regulations developed to allow the shipping industry to have some certainty in their operations. Nation States were primarily responsible for the regulation, but there was also an international framework which developed.
The most important convention which developed to regulate shipping and other activities at sea was the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) - Montego Bay 10 December 1982. This convention defined the continental shelf perimeters and the boundaries of international waters. It set out the rights of innocent passage through territorial waters and a forum for settling territorial disputes between member states about the was that international law was to apply under the terms of the convention. It also defined the status of water bodies like ports and rivers, bays, estuaries and other water bodies which may be of dubious interpretation under the definition of what constitutes 'the sea'.
Another one of the conventions which regulate the global shipping industry include the International Convention on Maritime Liens and Mortgages (ICMLM) - Geneva 6 May 1993. This convention defined an international standard for the application of liens and mortgages over ships and their cargo. The International Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage (ICCOD) - Brussels 29 November 1969, was a convention was supposed to create a system of liability for protecting the environment from major oil spills.
This convention will become increasingly relevant given the deep horizontal oil spill crisis in the United States at the moment. Another of the important conventions was the United Nations Convention on International Multimodal Transport of Goods (UNCIMTG) - Geneva 24 May 1980. This convention set out a regime for the transport of goods by sea, as well as other forms of transport.
There is a very large body of international law which regulates international shipping and this article can only hope to scratch the surface in terms of the amount of information about how the law of the sea operates. I have suggested a link below which offers more information.